LANSING — State Representative Henry Yanez (D-Sterling Heights) testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee today on Senate Bill 802, which allocates $1 million to the First Responder Presumed Coverage Fund.
“As a former firefighter, I recognize the higher incidences of cancer in firefighters than in the general population,” said Yanez. “Firefighters who develop cancer as a result of occupational exposure need to know that they can go to the First Responder Presumed Coverage Fund for financial assistance; workers’ compensation won’t cover it.”
Yanez was the co-sponsor of House Bill 5340 of 2014, which was the lower chamber’s version of SB 211. This year, Yanez has sponsored HB 5381 to rename a portion of M-53 in Sterling Heights between 14 Mile Road and M-59 the Eric C. Post Memorial Highway. Post was a sergeant major in the Michigan National Guard and was placed on active duty in Kosovo and Afghanistan. He was also a 14-year veteran of the Sterling Heights Fire Department serving as a firefighter and paramedic. He died in 2014 after a long battle with cancer, which he contracted as a peacekeeper in Kosovo.
“Eric’s cancer was a job related illness related to his service to his country,” said Yanez. “To the very end Eric was dedicated to protecting firefighters and their families whose lives are devastated by work related cancer.”
Michigan law now states that firefighters who work at least five years and develop certain cancers will have the presumption that the cancer is work-related. The fund would provide benefits for any respiratory tract, bladder, skin, brain, kidney, blood, thyroid, testicular, prostate or lymphatic cancer.
“Fighting fires is made even more dangerous by the contents in a burning building exposing firefighters to known and unknown hazards,” said Yanez. “That is why this fund is so important to firefighters who become victims of work-related cancers. They put their lives on the line for us and our families every single day. We made a commitment to first responders when we created this fund. It’s time that we honor that commitment by fully funding it so that they can get the help and medical treatments they need.”
Yanez, now in his second term in the House, is a former firefighter and paramedic from the Sterling Heights Fire Department.