SPRINGFIELD – On Thursday, pension legislation that will establish a presumption that Chicago firefighters or police officers who obtained a disability from contracting COVID-19 were injured in the line of duty and are entitled to duty disability benefits unanimously passed the House of Representatives. House Assistant Minority Leader Brad Stephens (R-Rosemont) was a chief co-sponsor of this legislation, House Bill 3162.
“Since March 2020, first responders have continued to risk their lives in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of them caught and tragically succumbed to this disease,” said Leader Stephens. “We owe our first responders the disability benefits to which they are entitled, especially after they stayed on the front lines during the unpredictable COVID pandemic in its worst waves. I’m glad we can advance this for Chicago firefighters and police officers and will continue to support first responders recovering from the impacts of COVID.”
HB 3162 applies to officers and firefighters under the Chicago Police and Firefighter Articles of the Illinois Pension Code. It will also be retroactive to March 9th, 2020 and to police officers and firefighters who were previously denied duty disability benefits that would be entitled to it under the bill’s implementation.
According to a 2022 report from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Foundation, COVID-19 was “the number one cause of law enforcement deaths in 2022.” COVID has taken the lives of several Illinois police officers from the Chicago Police Department, Aurora Police Department, Cook County Sheriff’s Office, and more.
Rep. Stephens has fought to protect first responders and has worked to protect first responders facing the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020. He joined a bipartisan coalition of state legislators in supporting an agreement on workers compensation benefits to be paid when first responders contract COVID-19 on the job and entitle families of firefighters and police officers to full death benefits should they have died as a result from COVID-19.
Rep. Stephens is a member of the House Police & Fire Committee. HB 3162 will be sent to the Senate for debate and consideration.