Lawmakers fail to fund firefighter cancer benefit
Michigan lawmakers passed a bill to provide funding for cancer treatment for firefighters; no money was ever put into the fund
HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. — Lawmakers in Michigan passed a bill to help pay for cancer treatment for firefighters and then neglected to provide funding for the bill, leaving firefighters to rely on the kindness of their brothers when cancer strikes.
Gov. Rick Snyder signed the legislation in January 2015 that allotted $3 million for treatment for firefighters who develop cancer. The fund has remained empty for more than a year now.
WXYZ.com reported the issue has become personal for Michigan firefighters, who have been left on their own and rely on the charity of others to pay expensive medical bills.
Hugo Gomez, a 27-year-old firefighter with the Highland Park Fire Department, was undergoing treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma when the first responder cancer presumption bill passed.
Gomez, who had a baby on the way, could not afford to quit or take time off and was hopeful the bill would help him pay for treatment. It didn't.
Gomez's fellow firefighter stepped in to help him in any way they could.
"If he needed somebody to cover him for the day we did that no questions asked. If he needed anything done around the house we made sure we asked him. If he needed anything, we helped," said a firefighter at Gomez's department.
Michigan politicians said they were unable to find $3 million out of the $55 billion budget to put into the fund, despite finding enough money to fund brand new senate offices with annual mortgage of $3.4 million.
"It would have helped a lot. Especially with medication," said Gomez.
In lieu of help from the state, firefighters at the department held bake sales and fundraisers to help cover Gomez's treatment costs.
Gomez treatment for his Hodgkin's lymphoma was successful and he is now back fighting fires for his department, although he tries to be more vigilant about his health and safety.
"I try to take better precautions, such as washing my turnout gear more often, washing my clothes more," said Gomez.
Firefighters from across the state are expected to attend a rally on Tuesday in the hopes of getting this issue put up for a vote so funding can be provided.