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New state budget approval gives NC firefighters help with cancer care

$15 million will be used to help firefighters diagnosed with cancer pay medical bills.

NORTH CAROLINA, USA — Millions of financial support for North Carolina firefighters fighting cancers will be available at the start of 2022 as part of the newly approved state budget.

Studies show firefighters are 9% more likely to get cancer compared to everyone else, and 14% more likely to die from cancer. 

With the use of $15 million, the goal is to save firefighters' lives by helping to cover the cost of the cancer treatments that are necessary. 

Families could expect a $25,000 lump-sum payment for each diagnosis, along with $12,000 for out-of-pocket medical expenses, and 75% of a firefighter's pay for disability if they are too sick to work.

"We deserve it, we deserve to have something to help us," Drowning Creek volunteer firefighter Melissa Stevenson said.

She knows the struggle firsthand after watching her father, the fire chief, battle lung cancer as well as a fellow firefighter Chris Banks, Jr., who died from head and neck cancer back in 2019.

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“He had to go out of the department for a while due to his health," Stevenson said. "He had multiple radiations, chemo.”

These treatments can be very expensive. But with the help of this money, the hope is that firefighters can focus on what's most important during a difficult time.

“It wouldn’t leave them worried about how am I going to provide for my family and try to fight this battle of cancer," Stevenson said.

The new payout is progress for North Carolina, yet still, the Tar Heel state is not among the 22 other states that include cancer as part of their worker's compensation.

The new budget will take effect on Jan.1, 2022, but the new benefits will not apply to those firefighters already diagnosed with cancer.

Contact Briana Harper at bharper@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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