The Violently Injured Police Officers Organization (V.I.P.O.) and the New England Chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors (NECOPS) are calling on the Massachusetts Legislature to act on stalled bills that would provide state death benefits to first responders who lost their lives to COVID-19 in the line of duty.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, at least 760 law enforcement officers nationwide have died of COVID-19 in the line of duty since 2020, with seven of those officers from Massachusetts.
“We have seven families that have lost people in the last two years due to COVID-19. A couple of them have already received federal death benefits, but have yet to receive any state benefits because the Commonwealth of Massachusetts hasn’t done anything to pass legislation support these families,” said V.I.P.O. Co-Founder Mario Oliveira. “There are pending bills, but they haven’t moved, and these families will continue to live in limbo until the Legislature takes action.”
National Police Week — created by President John F. Kennedy and Congress in 1962 to recognize law enforcement officers who lost their lives in the line of duty — is being recognized from May 11 to May 17.
“I would like to ask that Massachusetts legislators consider taking steps to move these bills forward during National Police Week, when our nation will be focused on honoring those who gave their lives,” said Oliveira. “Taking concrete steps to support the families of those who were lost is far more meaningful than any other words or commemorations.”
Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio have passed bills to provide death benefits to first responders lost to COVID-19.
In Massachusetts, two bills that would provide state benefits to first responders lost to COVID-19 are pending:
- Senate Bill 1755 — An Act Establishing Public Safety Employee COVID Death Benefits — would extend the state’s existing line-of-duty death benefits to first responders lost to COVID-19.
- Senate Bill 1727 would grant benefits specifically to the family of Rutland Police Detective John Songy, who lost his life to COVID-19 on May 29, 2020.
“In a few weeks, it will be the second anniversary of Detective John Songy’s death, and his widow, Joanne Songy, is still waiting for state support and benefits,” said Oliveira. “Joanne is working three jobs to make ends meet and to make her mortgage and car payments and other bills that are due.”
Senate Bill 1755 would provide the families of officers lost to COVID-19 the same line-of-duty death benefits as other officers killed in the line of duty;
- a one-time $300,000 payment
- 100 percent of their loved one’s base salary each year
- a real estate tax exemption for those who live in Massachusetts
- free in-state college tuition for children of the fallen first responder
The Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association is also supporting the bills to provide COVID-19 benefits to the families of those lost to the virus.
“The families of these first responders are being forced to grieve while also sorting out how they will continue their lives after the loss of a primary income earner, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is taking it’s time providing those families with the comfort and surety of death benefits,” said Oliveira. “These families have been through enough. They do not need continued uncertainty.”
To learn more about the Violently Injured Police Officers Organization, visit: https://vipo911.org/.
To learn more about New England C.O.P.S., visit: https://newenglandcops.org/.