MONTICELLO – Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther and fire officials urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday to sign legislation to help volunteer firefighters battle cancer.
But they are not done yet.
The legislation Gunther and several dozen fire chiefs and officials pushed for Monday aims to help interior firefighters, the ones who run into burning buildings.
If signed into law, it provides, among other things, a lump sum of either $6,250 or $25,000, depending on the severity of the cancer, and a monthly stipend of up to $1,500 a month for 36 months of total disability.
Current law provides only $600 a month.
That pales in the case of Frank Doolittle, a past Summitville chief who lost his employer-based health insurance.
Doolittle, who was diagnosed in December with colorectal cancer that spread to his liver, is out of work and paying $1,400 a month to keep that insurance.
There are nearly 150 volunteer fire departments in Sullivan, Orange and Ulster counties, with several thousand volunteer firefighters among them.
Gunther said after the press conference at the Sullivan County Government Center she has heard the message that other firefighters are at risk besides the interior firefighters.
“This is the first bill that has gone this distance,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that once this is approved that we won’t consider extending it to exterior firefighters. We know that is important, too.”
Still others are at risk, officials said Monday.
“Yes, it is the smoke we go into,” said John Hauschild, volunteer fire coordinator for Sullivan County.
“But a lot of people don’t realize it is also after the fire with our turnout gear. … We take it home and wash it in our washing machines. That also affects our families,” he said.
On Friday, a spokesman for the governor said the legislation was among numerous pieces still under review.
“We urge the governor to sign the bill,” Gunther said.
And, she added, she will invite him to come and do that signing in Sullivan County.