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

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Release: Minnesota House Advances Updates to New Hometown Heroes Assistance Program

Thursday, March 10, 2022

St. Paul, MN. – Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed legislation to make technical updates to the Hometown Heroes Assistance Program, a new program created via legislation authored by Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL-Hopkins) to address the alarmingly high incidence of cancer, cardiac issues, and emotional trauma facing these frontline workers.

“Firefighters face cancer, cardiac issues, and mental health challenges at higher rates of the rest of the population for just doing their jobs; jobs that we ask of them and that many of us are not willing or able to do,” said Rep. Youakim. “They work hard to keep us safe without hesitation and we need to have their backs. The Hometown Heroes Assistance Program is one of the ways we can care for those who care for us.”

Last year, the Legislature established the Hometown Heroes Assistance Program to provide firefighters with access to education, prevention, and care to address cardiac, emotional trauma or cancer diagnoses. The program is the most comprehensive in the nation and provides firefighters with free access to emotional trauma resources, up-to-$20,000 critical illness insurance policies, and ongoing health and wellness training. 

HF 2746 adjusts the enacting statute by clarifying that only firefighters who were diagnosed after the effective date of the new law are eligible for the assistance, to ensure that there are sufficient funds available. It also clarifies the definition of critical illness as meaning cardiac disease and cancer, as well as critical illnesses more generally.

Prior to the program’s enactment, Minnesota was ranked 45th out of 50 states when it comes to investing in the fire service. In recent years, there have been two cardiac-related firefighter line-of-duty deaths, three suicides, and an undetermined number of cancer deaths. Many firefighters face chronic illnesses that worsen throughout their career and retirement. This bill addresses the high rates of cancer, cardiac issues, and emotional trauma Minnesota’s 22,000 firefighters face.