Iowa House votes to boost benefits for 8649 police, firefighters
DES MOINES — The Iowa House has voted to ensure more than 8600 police and firefighters who’re part of a statewide pension and disability system are covered for work-related injuries that developed over time. The bill also requires coverage for mental disorders.
“This bill is about equity and fairness for our cops and firefighters,” Representative Bobby Kaufmann of Wilton said.
Lawmakers say the Iowa Public Employee Retirement System has the same benefits in place for state workers, teachers and other public employees. About 4000 full-time police officers and firefighters are covered by the so-called 411 system, including those in Mason City and Charles City. Nearly 4600 others who’ve retired or are no longer working as a firefighter or police officer get 411 benefits.
Representative Dave Williams is from Waterloo, one of the 49 Iowa cities where public safety employees would be covered for physical and mental conditions that develop over time.
“So many times our public safety people go into these situations and then years later suffer the consequences,” Williams said.
Representative Mary Mascher of Iowa City said the benefit changes for these employees were approved by the House a year ago, but the bill was tabled when the legislature went on hiatus due to the pandemic.
“Our firefighters and police officers have been front-line workers throughout this pandemic,” Mascher said, “and I think we owe them a debt of gratitude in terms of their willingness to put their own lives at risk to save the lives of others.”
Just before the House voted on the bill, Representative Kaufmann acknowledged several firefighters and police officers covered by the 411 system who were in the House gallery, watching the debate.
“Those are our police officers and our firefighters that not only during the pandemic but also during the duration of their career have had our backs and are going to continue to have our backs,” Kaufmann said, “and so this is our way of saying, ‘Thank you, we’ve got yours.’”
The bill passed the House unanimously. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.