Congress voted today to increase the Public Safety Officers Benefit (PSOB) to $250,000 with strong support from the International Association of Fire Fighters.
The PSOB is a one-time, lump sum federal payment to the families of public safety officers killed or totally disabled in the line of duty.
IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger, who was Legislative Director at the IAFF when the first PSOB bill was passed in 1976, said he was proud of the progress the program has made since starting at $50,000.
"It's really a great tribute and a significant Federal benefit to those that lay it on the line for our citzens and make the ultimate sacrifice both in law enforcement and fire and rescue," Schaitberger said.
In order to ensure that the families of fire fighters who were lost in the 9-11 tragedy receive the full amount, the increase was made retroactive to January 1, 2001.
"The congress has made a tremendous statement to the families of our fallen fire fighters," said General President Harold Schaitberger. "This PSOB increase sends a strong message to thousands of IAFF members who protect America."
The PSOB provision was included in a broad anti-terrorism bill that focused on expanding police powers.
President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law.
Legislation to raise the PSOB benefit was originally introduced by Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Senators Joe Biden (D-DE) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) long before the 9-11 tragedy. But the loss of so many lives was clearly on the minds of lawmakers when they added the provision to the counterterrorism package. The Chairmen of the Judiciary Committees in the House and Senate-Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)-played a key role in assuring the provision remained in the final version of the bill.
The PSOB was originally established in 1976, and set at $50,000. The IAFF was instrumental in the passage of the original PSOB law through Congress in 1976. Several years later the benefit was increased to $100,000 and indexed for inflation. Prior to this week's vote, the benefit stood at slightly more than $150,000.
New York Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund Tops $50 Million
As of Thursday morning, October 25, the International Association of Fire Fighters' relief fund for the families of those FDNY members lost in New York reached $53 million, according to IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger.
Of the funds raised thus far, some $7 million has already been distributed to the familes in two installments of $10,000 each over the past few weeks, he said.
"We wanted to make sure that we got the finances into those families' hands," Schaitberger said.
At least another $10 million is "in the pipeline" to come in, IAFF officials said. The final tally of the fund is expected to be at least $70-75 million.
"It's been a great response by the fire and rescue service community and the work of many organizations and entitites which have really allowed us to experience this kind of success," Schaitberger said.