SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Rob Martwick (D-Chicago) passed a measure Monday that creates transparency regarding the true conditions of the Chicago firefighter pensions system and provides an accurate path for stability.
“This legislation shines a light on the true financial condition of the fund and prevents the city from intentionally kicking the can down the road and forcing bigger tax increases in the future,” Martwick said. “The only way to truly fix our finances is to first acknowledge the true depth of the problem.”
House Bill 2451 removes outdated language that understates the true value of the pension benefit paid to firefighters while allowing the city to structurally underfund its payments. Two firefighters could have started on the force the same day, but could receive different benefits based on their dates of birth.
“This is about creating transparency, securing funds and stabilizing the budget,” Martwick said.
For nearly 40 years, the city and General Assembly have granted a retirement benefit to firefighters that is greater than what they are paying for.
Additionally, after hearing stories of firefighters who were denied disability benefits after getting COVID-19 on the job, Martwick also voted in favor of House Bill 4276.
The measure – which extends protections passed in the spring by six months – gives an additional 60 days of paid disability leave to people whose recovery from a line-of-duty physical injury was halted due to COVID-19. The bill also gives survivors of Chicago police officers, firefighters and paramedics who die from COVID-19 associated death benefits.
Furthermore, it allows employees to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits if they contract COVID-19.
“First responders put themselves at great risk of harm every day, but especially during the ongoing public health crisis,” Martwick said. “They deserve the peace of mind that they have protections if they get sick, and if – God forbid – something happens to them, that their loved ones will be entitled to death benefits.”
HB 2451 has passed both Houses of the General Assembly, while HB 4276 returns to the House for further consideration.