Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tom Carper (D-DE), Co-Chairs of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, announced that the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) advanced a bill they co-authored, the Federal Firefighter Fairness Act, which would help to ensure federal firefighters receive the financial support they deserve for illnesses and diseases associated with the performance of their duties as a firefighter. The legislation – co-sponsored by Senator Angus King (I-ME) – will now be considered by the full Senate.
“Every day across the country, firefighters put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe,” said Senator Collins. “Federal firefighters protect some of our nation’s most critical assets and infrastructure, and these brave men and women should have the same occupational safeguards and benefits as most of their colleagues at the local level. I am pleased that Congress has taken another step toward passing our bipartisan bill, which would allow federal firefighters to receive the benefits they deserve when they fall ill as a result of their service to our nation.”
“Federal firefighters put themselves in harm’s way to save lives and protect our nation’s public lands. In this dangerous line of work, these heroic men and women are at higher risk of developing certain diseases—like respiratory illnesses and a variety of cancers. We owe it to them to ensure they get the benefits and support they deserve for putting their own personal safety at risk,” said Senator Carper. “I’m proud the Committee passed our bill today, and urge the full Senate to follow suit so we can get this bipartisan bill to President Biden’s desk swiftly.”
The Federal Firefighters Fairness Act would amend the Federal Employee Compensation Act to create a presumption that a disability or death of a federal firefighter caused by certain diseases is the result of the performance of their duties. The conditions include bladder cancer, brain cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, colorectal cancer, esophageal cancer, kidney cancer, leukemias, lung cancer, mesothelioma, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, prostate cancer, skin cancer (melanoma), testicular cancer, thyroid cancer, and a sudden cardiac event or stroke.
In April 2021, Senators Collins and Carper introduced the Federal Firefighter Fairness Act along with Senators King, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). In May 2022, the House of Representatives voted in a bipartisan fashion to approve and advance the House companion bill first introduced by Representative Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.).
The Federal Firefighters Fairness Act is supported by the International Association of Fire Fighters, the American Federation of Government Employees, and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association.
Senator Collins has been a longstanding advocate for Maine’s first responders. When the pandemic first hit, she led a bipartisan effort to include $100 million in the CARES Act for the Assistance to Firefighters Grants Program, emergency funding that has helped improve firefighters’ safety while they continue to serve during the public health crisis. She also annually leads a bipartisan letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee urging robust funding for FEMA’s firefighter grant programs, which she helped create.