South Florida has been irreversibly devastated by COVID-19. Recently, the Miami Herald reported that Florida’s total case count surpassed 700,000. It is exceedingly clear that our jurisdiction’s battle with COVID-19 is long from over.
The widespread impact that this pandemic has had on our community are unthinkable and the number of lives lost is painful to acknowledge. Most folks I know have been impacted, either directly or indirectly, by the virus. Many are struggling to maintain their livelihood given the economic devastation. In times like these, it is easy to feel hopeless. We cannot give up and we must keep fighting the good fight by following the simple safety rules laid out for us by the scientists. A post-COVID reality is on the horizon.
Miami’s firefighters have remained dedicated to public safety during the COVID-19 crisis putting their lives on the line on each and every call for service. As a former firefighter myself and a current board member of the Miami Firefighters’ and Police Officers’ Retirement Trust Fund, I’m proud of the ways my brothers and sisters in uniform have expanded their efforts in conjunction with their regular duties to best serve their communities in the face of danger.
A life dedicated to public service cannot go unacknowledged. Miami’s firefighters work long, hard hours to preserve public safety, often risking their own lives in confronting dangerous situations. In their line of work, saving lives and livelihoods is a regular part of their day-to-day. And after years of doing so, they have a right to retire comfortably. However, a concerning piece of tax legislation currently circulating in Washington could threaten their ability to do so.
The Financial Transaction Tax, or FTT, directly threatens working class Americans like firefighters and could compromise their retirement savings. The policy would place a 1% tax on all financial transactions, like the buying and selling of stocks, bonds, and other contracts, including those that often compromise state and local sponsored retirement funds This fee could deprive ordinary Americans like firefighters of their hard-earned retirement savings by pulling funds from their pensions to pay for it. Additionally, this tax could threaten the futures of firefighter families as they try to save for their kids’ educations through tax deferred college saving plans.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the Federal Government has failed to recognize the magnitude of the COVID problem and pushed the burden and cost of responding to the crisis to local and state governments. This shifting of responsibility and costs has raised concerns about local governments’ ability to continue funding pensions and other services given the new financial demands that the crisis brought upon local governments.
It is incomprehensible to think that Washington would want to tax firefighters’ and public servants’ retirements at a time like this. The thought of further compromising Florida’s firefighters already-threatened retirement funds amidst a global health and financial crisis is nothing short of unconscionable.
Note to the editor: Thomas Gabriel is a former member of the Miami Fire Rescue and former firefighter and paramedic for the City of Miami Fire Department. Currently, he serves on the Board of Trustees for the City of Miami Firefighters’ and Police Officers’ Retirement Trust.