Legislation authored by U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) to increase higher education financial aid for the children of public safety officers who died in the line of duty has become law as part of the nation’s larger federal funding bill.
Language from the Children of Fallen Heroes Scholarship Act, H.R. 949, introduced by Fitzpatrick on Feb. 7, 2017, was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, H.R. 1625, that President Donald Trump signed into law on March 23 providing more than $1.3 trillion in federal government funding through Sept. 30.
“This has been a top priority of mine to support our first responders and their families, and I’m thrilled that we’ve gotten this bill across the finish line for them,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick, who introduced the bipartisan H.R. 949 with lead original cosponsor U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA). U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Bob Casey (D-PA) on March 9, 2017 introduced the related bill, S. 597, in the U.S. Senate.
H.R. 949 will amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to eliminate the expected family contribution (EFC), which is used to determine financial need in the case of a Pell Grant-eligible student whose parent or guardian died in the line of duty as a police officer, firefighter or other public safety officer, according to the congressional record summary. “Such student is eligible to receive an automatic zero EFC and qualify for the maximum Pell Grant award if the student was less than 24 years old or enrolled at an institution of higher education at the time of the parent or guardian’s death,” the summary states.
“This bipartisan legislation will ease the financial burden for the families of our community’s fallen heroes,” said Fitzpatrick. His staff noted that the bill, which had 36 cosponsors, also had garnered support from the Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the National Association of Police Organizations, and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association Foundation, among other national organizations.
“As a member of the law enforcement community for nearly a decade and a half, I know firsthand the service and sacrifice of our nation’s first responders,” said Fitzpatrick, who prior to being elected to Congress in 2016 served as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney focused on drug crimes and as an FBI Supervisory Special Agent whose work targeted political corruption and supported global counterterrorism efforts.
“While we can never repay those who laid down their lives in the line of duty, we can make it our priority to support their families and their children,” the congressman said.
Speaking in support of the legislation, Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said, “While no amount of financial assistance can replace a loved one, providing children of fallen officers with federal Pell Grants for their college education is a noble act.”