A bill introduced by Congressman Raul Ruiz to increase benefits for the families of first responders killed in the line of duty is gaining traction.
It’s called the Heroes Lesley Zerebny and Gilbert Vega First Responders Survivors Support Act and it aims at increasing financial benefits for families of fallen first responders like officers Vega and Zerebny.
“The families of fallen officers were just not getting enough to get back on their feet while they were grieving. That the educational benefits were not keeping up with the rapid rise in college tuition,” said congressman Raul Ruiz.
In addition, families of fallen first responders are being forced to wait years for financial support due to bureaucratic delays. The family of officer Vega, two years after he was killed in the line of duty, has yet to see what they are due.
“When you are a spouse and you are relying on the income of your loved one, and all of a sudden not having that income can be very devastating and hard for a family and for that spouse,” said Ruiz.
According to Ruiz’s office, the bill now has the support of 13 democrats and 9 republicans, along with various law enforcement and fire organizations.
If passed the bill would increase the death benefit from $350,000 dollars to half a million dollars. The bill would also double the education benefit for children of fallen first responders from $100,000 to $200,000 dollars.
To account for the bureaucratic delays families incur, the inflation rate will be based on the time families receive the money, not years before.
“The way we are going to honor and recognize those that have fallen is to serve and improve the lives of those who are living in their family members,” Ruiz Said.
NBC Palm Springs reached out to the office of Kimberlin Brown Pelzer, who is running against Ruiz in November, and asked if she supported the bill.
She responded by saying, “I fully support increasing death and disability benefits for police officers and their families – unfortunately Congressman Ruiz has proven to be one of the least effective members of congress. If Ruiz’s bill doesn’t become law I’ll push for similar legislation in 2019 if I am elected to congress.”
Ruiz said he hopes the bill will be put to a vote by November of 2019.
Both Ruiz and Pelzer are scheduled to appear in a live debate on NBC Palm Springs on October 16th, from 6 to 7pm.