Local Sheriffs Speak Out About DPS Ruling Saying Death Benefits Won’t Be Paid To Family Members Of First Responders Who Die From Covid
CALHOUN COUNTY, MISS. (WCBI) – Families of first responders who die from Covid 19 will not receive death benefits from the state of Mississippi.
That ruling was made by the Department of Public Safety and it has upset first responders across the state.
Calhoun County Sheriff Greg Pollan is the president of the Mississippi Sheriff’s Association. He is shocked at a ruling from the DPS, which says the state will not pay death benefits related to Covid line of duty deaths.
“I think that we assumed that because the federal benefit was there for all first responders, that the state would follow suit, but state has decided not to,” Sheriff Pollan said.
A federal law provides access to death benefits for families of first responders who die from Covid 19. That law was passed during President Trump’s administration, and continues under President Biden’s administration.
The law was passed in part because of the difficulty proving that a virus was actually contracted in the line of duty. Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson says the decision by the DPS means even more suffering and hardship for families of first responders who die as a result of Covid.
“There’s always been an understanding and a promise made to law officers, that, because you wear that badge and what you do, there are benefits and your family will be taken care of, that’s part of the reason a lot of law enforcement officers get into it, they know the danger, but they are willing to risk that, knowing their family will be taken care of, that ‘s who will suffer, not the officer,” Sheriff Johnson said.
“Since I’ve been president in June, two sheriffs have died from Covid and I think two deputies have died from Covid, there’s been about six deaths this year across the state in law enforcement from Covid, it touches every community, families, sheriff, chief and we’re all in this together and we need to work together to get this corrected,” Sheriff Pollan said.
Sheriff Pollan is hoping the DPS will reverse its decision, or the case could be challenged in Chancery court. And as president of the Mississippi Sheriff’s Association, he’s asking first responders to contact their state lawmakers and ask them to take up the issue when they meet in January.
A spokesperson with the Department of Public Safety has not returned our calls seeking comment about this story.