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Alberta Budget 2019: UCP earmarks money for First Responders and Heroes Fund

Firefighters were called early Wednesday morning to a house fire at 11213 96 St. in the Alberta Avenue neighbourhood. Jan. 17, 2018.
Firefighters were called early Wednesday morning to a house fire at 11213 96 St. in the Alberta Avenue neighbourhood. Jan. 17, 2018. Morris Gamblin, Global News

The Alberta government is promising $9 million over three years to implement a fund to help families of first responders who die as a result of their job.

While the provincial budget reduces overall spending in the Labour ministry (from $219 million in 2019 to $206 million by 2022-23), it sets aside money for the First Responders and Heroes Fund.

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The budget allocates $9 million over three years beginning in 2020-21 to implement the fund, starting in April 2020. For the 2020-21 fiscal year, $1.5 million has been set aside.

The Heroes Fund will provide a one-time, tax-free $100,000 payment to eligible families. First responders include firefighters, police officers, paramedics, sheriffs and correctional officers.

“There is no higher form of public service than to risk one’s life to maintain public safety,” Labour and Immigration Minister Jason Copping said.

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“Albertans who do so are heroes and deserve our respect and support. We are honouring their noble service with improved benefits for their families.”

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The government said Alberta is the only province with a grant program for families of fallen first responders.

The Heroes Fund payments are separate from regular workers’ compensation fatality benefits, the government said in a news release Wednesday.

The budget also commits $1.5 million per year for three years to “improve services for first responders diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, starting in 2020-21.”

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While the details of that aspect of the budget were not released, the government said they would be developed “over the coming months.”

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“The Alberta Fire Fighters Association would like to applaud the Government of Alberta for implementing the Heroes Fund,” said Brad Readman, president of the Alberta Fire Fighters Association. “While we would love to see the day when this fund is not needed, the harsh reality is that it will be needed for a long time.

“Every day, first responders go to work not knowing what each shift will bring, not even knowing whether or not they will come home from that shift. This fund will ease the burden on the families whose loved ones make the ultimate sacrifice protecting and caring for their communities.”

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Alberta has more than 14,000 full-time, part-time, casual and volunteer firefighters; more than 7,500 police officers and more than 9,400 paramedics.

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