For decades, there has been a fund for firefighters and police officers across the state, but that money could be in jeopardy with the governor's proposed budget.
Several firefighters spoke out against a version of the proposed budget on Tuesday.
For the last several years, more than $100,000 was specifically set aside for injured firefighters and police. But now that money is no longer guaranteed.
“A hose broke on my way down the aerial ladder and I fell 55 feet,” said Kevin Gilbert, a former Ansonia firefighter.
Even though it was 20 years ago, Gilbert said he can still remember the day his life changed forever, when he broke his right arm, wrist, right ankle, and right femur.
He’s now paralyzed and is one of seven firefighters who are getting state help as a result of their injuries.
The Connecticut State Fire Association (CSFA) facilitates the funding.
Last year, the Association got a little more than $194,000 to solely help the fallen and injured firefighters and their families.
“It's definitely not sitting well because they don't like to have anything taken away from them that they might need in the future,” Gilbert said.
Children of permanently disabled or fallen firefighters are also on the receiving end of some money until they turn 18.
The fund has taken care of the families of the two Waterbury firefighters who died in a fire truck rollover crash in the 1990s, and most recently, the family of Hartford’s Kevin Bell.
This year, under the proposed budget, that guaranteed money is gone and has shifted to the general fund. That means the firefighters will need to fight for every dollar.
“It does help offset costs. School clothes, school books, things of that nature. Even household bills can be paid with this minimal amount of money for someone who gave such dedication to the state of Connecticut as a firefighter,” said Vaughan Dumas, president of the CSFA.
At a hearing on Tuesday, two dozen firefighters in their dress blues stood in solidarity with their injured veteran, making their case to keep the funds guaranteed.
Gilbert couldn’t imagine what life would look like without it.
“God forbid, if something like that happens to someone, like what happened to myself, that little bit of extra money always does help,” Gilbert said.
Gov. Dannel Malloy said he would look into the specific line item.
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