Zoneton Fire Dept. shield

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Kentucky lawmaker plans to file a bill that would help the families of first responders who died from COVID-19.

Rep. Thomas Huff, a Republican from Shepherdsville, said his proposal is a result of the twin tragedy that occurred at the Zoneton Fire Department.

Chief Rob Orkies died in December 2020 after a battle with both cancer and COVID-19. Then in February, acting Chief Gary Key also fell to the virus. But the families were denied Kentucky's death benefit of $80,000 given when first responders die as a result of their jobs.

Zoneton’s new chief, Kevin Moulton, said he was told by the Kentucky Fire Commission that the families were not eligible because of the way the state law is worded.

“In the KRS, it does not state COVID-19 or anything like that,” Moulton said.

Huff’s bill would change that, adding the virus to the causes of death that are eligible for the first responder death benefit.

“They're out there on the front lines saving us, pulling us out of wrecked cars. The house catches on fire — whatever — they're out there doing that," Huff said. "And they could easily contract COVID-19 as a result of that."

The proposal would be retroactive for two years to cover all first responders known to have died as a result of the virus.

“If you need them, they're there,” Huff said. “And I think we ought to take care of their families.”

Moulton is pushing for the bill’s passage, sending letters to elected officials, the Kentucky Fire Commission, the Kentucky Firefighters Association and the Association of Fire Chiefs.

He said the bill would apply to police, EMS and corrections officers, as well as firefighters.

“We're going to go and do the job we're supposed to do, and to know that the state and other agencies are going to have our back — as first responders — hopefully, that's a good feeling for all of us,” Moulton said.

Moulton said passage would be a way of thanking the families of first responders who have kept working throughout the pandemic.

“Hopefully, they'll know that the state's helping these first responders that are putting their lives in danger no matter what they do," he said.

Huff said the bill is still in the draft stage but will be filed before the 2022 session begins in January. He expects to get wide support.

“I feel like it would be a bipartisan bill that anybody could get behind," he said.

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