September 8, 2016, 3:51 PM
BY ELLEN MOYNIHAN, GINGER ADAMS OTIS
|Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs legislation to provide enhanced disability retirement benefits for New York City firefighters Thursday at the Uniform Firefighters Association in Manhattan. (DARREN MCGEE/DARREN MCGEE- OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR)|
Nearly 15 years after the FDNY lost 343 members in the 9/11 terror attacks, Gov. Cuomo signed a law Thursday increasing disability benefits for new hires.
“You can’t ask a person to put their life on the line and not support their families if they make the ultimate sacrifice,” the governor said.
Hundreds of firefighters and the executive board of their union, the Uniformed Firefighters Association, broke into applause as he signed on the dotted line.
The law restores disability benefits for firefighters hired after 2009 to 75% of their salary if they are seriously injured on the job.
The bill also carries a presumption for job-related lung disease.
In exchange, firefighters hired after 2009 will make 2 to 3% salary contributions on top of whatever contributions are already required to cover their benefits.
“(Cuomo) has been a staunch ally of firefighters for years and years,” union head Steve Cassidy said at the signing ceremony.
“He has always been there for the UFA.”
The state law put an end to years of effort from state lawmakers and the union to bring the disablity benefits of new hires into line with the benefits given to firefighters on the job before 2009.
The benefits dropped to 50% of a firefighters’ salary that year — minus whatever Social Security payments they received — when outgoing Gov. David Paterson neglected to sign a disability extension.
|“You can’t ask a person to put their life on the line and not support their families if they make the ultimate sacrifice,” the governor said. (DARREN MCGEE/DARREN MCGEE- OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR)>|
That meant firefighters hurt on the job would have as little as $27 a day — or $10,000 a year — to live on if injured, according to the union, which mounted a blistering political campaign to generate mayoral and city council support for increasing the benefits.
Mayor de Blasio in August 2015 agreed to send a home-rule message in support of the change to Albany as part of his contract negotiations with the UFA.
After getting approval within the City Council, the union took their mission to Albany.
State legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Peter Abbate and Sen. Martin Golden passed unanimously at the close of the 2016 legislative session.
“With this critical legislation, firefighters ... will never have to worry about leaving themselves and their families destitute should they be seriously injured in the line of duty,” said Cassidy.
The new law does not extend upgraded benefits to NYPD hires who joined after 2009, however.
That union, involved in protracted arbitration with City Hall over its wage contract, has yet to wrangle mayoral support for restoring its members’ disability benefits.
Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said Cuomo’s efforts for firefighters had him “optimistic that an adequate disability benefit can be achieved for New York City police officers, who are now the only uniformed workers in New York City and the only police officers in all of New York State without this benefit.”
Lynch also called for “ politics (to be) removed from the process” and urged de Blasio to “ stop playing games with the lives of New York City cops.”
WITH KENNETH LOVETT