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Missouri legislators eye expanding education options for first responders’ families


EXCLUSIVE — Sens. Lauren Arthur and Denny Hoskins have planned a bipartisan push to enhance education opportunities for the spouses and family members of fallen first responders during session next year. The effort has the backing of United WE, a nonpartisan nonprofit focused on women’s economic and civil leadership. 

The duo is leading the effort to add first responders to Missouri’s Wartime Veteran’s Survivor Grant Program which aids children and spouses of veterans who were killed, injured, or rendered ill as a result of combat action on or after Sept. 11, 2001. 

The addition would allow the families of first responders who have been killed or injured in the line of duty to apply for annual education grants. State statute caps the program at 25 individuals, but its budget was recently increased by $10,000, Wendy Doyle, president and CEO of United WE, said.

“There is no greater way we can honor our fallen first responders than to ensure the long-term wellbeing of their families,” Hoskins, a Republican, said. “I look forward to expanding upon what we’ve already done for our fallen veterans’ families by expanding this initiative to the brave men and women who serve our communities as first responders every day.” 

Sen. Denny Hoskins (left) and Sen. Lauren Arthur (right)

Arthur, a former teacher in an underserved community, said she was “excited” to work on an issue that is bipartisan and would “do something good for our first responders and many family members throughout Missouri.” 

“I really believe that education is so important for creating opportunities for students and our families, and it’s important for our state and long-term economic development,” Arthur, a Democrat, said during an interview. 

“By removing obstacles to higher education for the spouses and children of our fallen heroes, we can help give them the tools they need to succeed and to make meaningful contributions for their communities,” Arthur said. 

The effort falls under the mission of United WE (formerly the Women’s Foundation) which promotes economic advancement opportunities for women. In particular, this legislation could help women who have to support their families after the loss of a spouse. 

Research conducted by United WE showed military and first responder families in Missouri as a whole would benefit from the opportunity for women and children to get a higher education without the added financial burden. 

United WE President and CEO Wendy Doyle

“It’s a nice recognition to those who are serving and making the ultimate sacrifice for us. It would just be a nice way to continue to help these families shoulder some of the burdens that they experience,” Doyle said in an interview. “There are so many Missourians who have done great things and continue to do great things, and it’s a way to recognize what they’ve done to serve on our behalf.” 

One research project conducted by United WE studied how women have integrated into the military and obtained leadership positions. The grant program was a nod to the women serving and their families, Doyle said. 

“We see this survivor grant program as an opportunity [to] get an education and accelerate workforce development. We know that’s a priority for the state,” Doyle said. “We’re really proud of those research studies, but we’re especially proud of this Wartime Veteran’s Survivors Grant Program and the opportunity that it’s created for Missouri families.” 

“Twenty years ago this week, terrorist attacks on our homeland highlighted the bravery and sacrifice of our nation’s first responders unlike any other event in recent history,” Doyle said. “Public servants who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation and our communities deserve to have their legacy honored by those they leave behind, especially by empowering their spouses and children to thrive.”