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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL)

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Release: Minnesota Lawmakers Announce Bipartisan Hometown Heroes Act

Thursday, February 4, 2021

St. Paul, MN. – Today, a bipartisan group of legislators announced new efforts to deliver vital supplemental state health assistance to Minnesota’s 22,000 firefighters. The Hometown Heroes Act, authored by Rep. Cheryl Yoaukim (DFL-Hopkins) and Sen. Jeff Howe (R-Rockville), would address the alarmingly high incidence of cancer, cardiac issues, and emotional trauma facing these frontline workers.

"Our firefighters face unique challenges, especially with the ongoing pandemic," said Representative Youakim. "They have higher incidences of cancer, cardiac issues and now more than ever, trauma. This bill would not only deliver quality health care assistance our firefighters need but takes a proactive approach with the necessary awareness training they deserve."

“I, unfortunately, have watched many of my fellow firefighters suffer and die from cancer and heart disease,” said Senator Jeff Howe. “If we don’t take care of the folks we call when we’re in trouble, how can we expect them to be there when we need them? I’m passionate about this subject, and I’m honored to be carrying this bill.” 

The bill establishes one-time lump-sum “Critical Care” grants for all Minnesota firefighters diagnosed with cancer or cardiac issues, guaranteeing $30,000 per diagnosis. It also creates an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for all Minnesota firefighters facing emotional trauma issues unique to their occupation.

“My experience losing my husband showed me firsthand just how much legislation like the Hometown Heroes Assistance Program is needed for Minnesota’s firefighters,” said Jen Frantz, who lost her husband in a line-of-duty death from a heart attack. Prior to his passing, Matt Frantz served as the Fire Chief for the Rice Lake Fire Department.

“I don’t want anyone to have to experience what I have, and that’s why I urge legislators to pass this bill swiftly in 2021.”

The grant will also be used for ongoing annual MnFIRE Awareness training for every Minnesota firefighter. Changing the current culture in the Minnesota Fire Service is integral to long-term reduction of the incidences of cancer, emotional trauma, and cardiovascular disease. It will also provide annual MnFIRE Awareness Training for medical doctors and mental health professionals statewide.