State firefighter cancer fund still has no money

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LANSING, MI. (WLNS) – It’s been more than a year since Michigan lawmakers created a fund to help firefighters who develop cancer on the job.

But the fund is having funding issues, as first reported by Michigan Radio.

Being a firefighter is dangerous — but it’s more than just the heat that can be a problem.

Governor Rick Snyder approved a first responders fund last year.

It’s compensation for firefighters who contract cancer while on duty.

But with no funds, firefighters are still fighting for their lives.

In July 2011, Eric Weber was diagnosed with blood cancer.

“I got great days and very few bad days,” said Weber, a Captain with the Lansing Fire Department.

And every day — for the past 20 years — he’s been a fireman here in Lansing.

“It’s highly possible — and likely — that my cancer came from the performance of my duties as a firefighter,” Weber said.

Weber and others like him are supposed to get financial help for medicine and doctor’s visits through the first responder’s fund.

But there’s one problem — the fund has no money.

Weber says although the bill itself is a step forward, he feels state officials broke a promise they made last year.

“Anytime there’s a promise made, let’s keep those promises,” Weber said. “And right now I feel like there’s – okay we got it done – and they feel like that’s a victory.”

Weber says he hoped real victory — and actual funding — would come this week in Governor Snyder’s new budget proposal.

But it didn’t.

Governor Snyder’s office says, “Prioritizing resources in the budget is a challenge and was especially a challenge this year with pressing needs in Flint and the Detroit Public School system.”

The news — hitting even closer to home this week — with the passing of Lansing Fire Department Captain Steve Babcock, after he lost his battle to non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

But Representative Tom Cochran — a former Lansing Fire Chief himself — says he’ll fight until he sees some funding.

“There’s ample time for Michigan legislators, for the Senate, for the House to step forward and do the right thing — to cover the people that put their lives on the line,” Cochran said.

Cochran says six Michigan firefighters have been diagnosed with cancer since the bill passed last year.

And Weber asks: “How many more need to be diagnosed before it’s funded?”

Officials say Governor Snyder’s budget could go through some changes in the coming months, and he’s willing to discuss funding for the bill.

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