The Mississippi Department of Public Safety has clarified the state’s existing policy as it relates to benefits for the families of law enforcement officers that have passed away from COVID-19.
After Rep. Tom Miles declared his intention to file a bill to provide these families with the same $100,000 in benefits that they would receive should their loved one be killed in the line of duty, DPS explained that, under current state law, they cannot currently extend those benefits. However, the statement makes clear that the agency is working with the law enforcement community and legislators to reach a solution in the coming months.
“In response to the historic and unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act of 2020 was signed into law by President Trump after being approved by Congress in August of 2020. The passage of this act allowed family members of first responders who died after contracting COVID-19 to receive a federal death benefit. The amount of that benefit is currently $370,376. The Mississippi statute providing a $100,000 death benefit to the families of first responders killed in the line of duty has not been amended to provide a death benefit to the families of first responders following COVID-19 related deaths. Therefore, the Department of Public Safety cannot extend Mississippi’s first responder death benefits to include COVID-19 related deaths unless there is a change to existing state law. The Department remains committed to supporting first responders throughout Mississippi and has been in contact with various state leaders, as well as our public safety partners, regarding possible resolutions,” DPS’ statement reads.
Currently, COVID-19 is the leading cause of death among the law enforcement community nationwide. In Mississippi, several first responders have succumbed to the virus in recent months, including Hinds County Sheriff Lee Vance, Yalobusha County Sheriff Mark Fulco, Jackson Police Officer Bryan Pippin and George County Deputy Bobby Daffin.
DPS Commissioner Sean Tindell joined SuperTalk Mississippi this morning to discuss DPS’ stance on the situation.