New law honoring fallen Lenexa firefighter will benefit families for years to come

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LENEXA, Kan. — The legacy of a Lenexa firefighter will live on to help others, years after his death.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly signed the Michael Wells Memorial Act Monday morning.

The new legislation is named after Lenexa firefighter Michael Wells. It expands benefits to families of firefighters and other first responders who lose a loved one due to service-connected conditions, like cancer.

Wells passed away in September 2019 from esophageal cancer. He died two days after his 39th birthday.

At the time of his death, Wells’ family wasn’t eligible for the same benefits as other fallen first responders because his death wasn’t considered a line-of-duty death.

The new law changed that.

With the governor’s signature, families of fallen first responders are now eligible for a monthly stipend of 50% of their loved one’s salary, plus an additional 10% for each child.

“It’s our responsibility to take care of Kansas families experiencing the tragic death or disability of loved ones who are first responders who put their lives on the line every day to protect us. We need to ensure they get the support they need,” Kelly said.

The change in benefits applies to deaths since Jan. 1, 2017. That makes Wells’ family eligible for the added benefits.

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