FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEBJA
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 1, 2000202/307-0703

SURVIVING FAMILIES OF WORCESTER FIREFIGHTERS RECEIVE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT DEATH BENEFITS

WASHINGTON, DC - The Justice Department has announced that the families of the six firefighters who died in the Worcester tragedy last December will receive a one-time financial award provided by the Justice Department's Public Safety Officers' Benefits (PSOB) program. Under the program, each family will receive a lump sum payment benefit of $146,000. In addition, eligible survivors will qualify for educational assistance through the Justice Department's Public Safety Officers' Educational Assistance Program (PSOEA).

"As in the Worcester tragedy, when an officer or firefighter loses his or her life or is permanently or totally disabled, the family should not have its grief intensified with fears regarding how the family will make ends meet," said Nancy Gist, Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). "The Justice Department is proud that the PSOB program has reached these families and can furnish a small measure of comfort."

The PSOB program provides benefits to individuals serving a public safety agency in an official capacity, on a paid or volunteer basis. This includes, but is not limited to, law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, ambulance crew members, and corrections officers. Under the program, each family could receive a lump sum tax exempt payment of $146,000. This amount is a 3.4 percent increase from the FY 99 award amount of $143, 000.

Recognizing that the one-time financial benefit of the Public Safety Officers' Benefits (PSOB) program is often consumed by basic needs in the aftermath of tragedy, Congress extended further support to the families of state and local public safety officers by amending the Act governing the Federal Law Enforcement Dependents' Assistance (FLEDA) program, in 1998. With the inclusion of state and local officers, BJA changed the name to the "Public Safety Officers' Educational Assistance (PSOEA) program. This program, also administered through BJA, is intended to defer higher education expenses through an established monthly allowance to eligible survivors.

Full-time students are eligible to receive $404 per month, three-quarter-time students are eligible to receive $304, and part-time students are eligible to receive $202. PSOEA benefits can be used for educational expenses that include tuition, room and board, books, supplies, and fees consistent with educational, professional, and vocational objectives.

During FY 99, the PSOB program awarded more than $29 million in death benefits to the surviving families of public safety officers and more than $800,000 in disability benefits to disabled public safety officers. In FY 99, the PSOEA program provided educational assistance awards to eight families, which totaled more than $44,000 in financial assistance. More than 4,500 families have received awards since the program began in 1977.

For more information regarding benefits provided by the PSOB program or the PSOEA program contact the Bureau of Justice Assistance at 888/744-6513. Additional information about BJA or its programs is available at: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA.

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For additional information, contact Sheila Jerusalem at 202/616-3227.