TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Fred H. Madden and Senate President Steve Sweeney that would provide workers’ compensation benefits to spouses of certain deceased fire and police personnel for the entire period of survivorship was approved today by the General Assembly, receiving final legislative approval.
The bill, S-1469, would allow surviving spouses of members of the State Police or members of fire or police departments who die in the line of duty to continue receiving weekly workers’ compensation benefits for as long as the spouse lives, regardless of remarriage.
“There are few events more traumatic than losing an officer or firefighter in the line of duty, and families of the deceased face an immeasurable sense of grief and responsibility,” said Madden, D-Gloucester and Camden. “Providing lasting financial security to surviving spouses and dependents is the least we can do so that they can begin putting their lives back together and moving forward.”
“This bill is about showing compassion for those whose spouses made the ultimate sacrifice while providing public safety in the line of duty,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland. “These individuals are not only struck with the loss of a loved one, but they must now deal with a variety of expenses as well as child care and cost of living issues that have been thrust upon them. This bill is the right thing to do.”
Currently, surviving spouses of fire and police personnel who died in the line of duty receive a lump sum upon any remarriage that occurs during the first 450 weeks of benefits – like the spouses of other workers killed on the job. The lump sum is equal to 100 times the amount of weekly compensation prior to remarriage. Following existing law, the payment of weekly compensation benefits ceases if the surviving spouse remarries.
Under the bill, the spouses of members of the fire or police force that die in the line of duty would no longer receive the lump sum upon remarriage, but would instead continue collecting weekly workers’ compensation benefits as long as the surviving spouse lives, even after remarriage and even if the remarriage occurs after the first 450 weeks of benefits.
The provisions of the bill do not apply to a surviving spouse of fire and police personnel who died in the line of duty if that surviving spouse already received a lump sum payment or remarried prior to the effective date of the bill.
The bill cleared the Senate with a vote of 35-0 last October. The Assembly today approved the bill by a vote of 71-5. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk.