A new law that became effective July 1 created a state program called the Iowa Public Safety Survivor Benefits Fund — a fund to help with ongoing insurance costs for the families of Iowa peace officers and firefighters who die in the line of duty.

The new fund will provide grants to organizations that provide assistance to help pay the costs of ongoing accident or health care insurance coverage for the surviving family members of Iowa law enforcement officers and firefighters killed on the job.

The program will receive funding annually through the proceeds that the Iowa Lottery raises for state causes.

Speaking at the Iowa Peace Officer Memorial on the grounds of the state capitol in Des Moines on Tuesday, Rep. Mike Sexton, R-Rockwell City, one of the primary backers of the legislation that created the program, said, “This memorial is a reminder to us all about our public servants who have died in the line of duty. Insurance coverage is one of the immediate concerns their survivors can face, and it’s right that we find a way to help them continue that coverage.”

Sexton, who farms in the Rockwell City area, said the insurance difficulties of surviving families became clear in the Calhoun County community of 1,700 when Rockwell City Police Officer Jamie Buenting was shot and killed during a standoff on Sept. 13, 2013.

Sexton said that insurance coverage has been a difficulty for Buenting’s widow and two children as well as for his community, which does not have a large city budget.

“The families of these fallen heroes deserve care and support,” said Rep. Wes Breckenridge, D-Newton, a retired lieutenant from the Newton Police Department.

The new legislation creating the survivor fund, which was signed by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on May 22, culminates a multi-year debate about insurance for surviving family members.

Until 2018, if an Iowa peace officer or firefighter died in the line of duty, the state, county or city government for which the person worked was not authorized to continue accident or health insurance coverage for that person’s surviving family members.

Last year, state law was changed to allow the continuing coverage option for surviving family members and for the state, county or city involved to pay the full cost or a portion of the insurance costs. If the full amount of the coverage is not paid, the family members can opt to pay the remaining cost themselves. Unfortunately, some families and small communities have had difficulty paying the insurance cots.

The survivor fund, which will address those shortfalls, will be administered by the Iowa Department of Public Safety. IDPS officials will award grants from the fund to nonprofit organizations that help survivors of peace officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.

The Iowa Lottery will provide $100,000 annually to the survivor fund, an amount state lawmakers said they believe would be enough to help with insurance costs for families that might need assistance.

Iowa’s lawmakers should be congratulated for providing support to the families of those who make the ultimate sacrifice to protect our lives and property.

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