NEW BEDFORD (CBS) – Debbie Cassidy grins when she talks about her husband, a veteran who proudly put on his police uniform for midnight shifts and who loved a good argument.

“We actually met when we were 10 years old,” Debbie said.

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In April, New Bedford Police Sergeant Mike Cassidy lost his fight with COVID-19. Debbie and her daughter McKenzie were cruelly unable to see him for much of his hospitalization as they too battled the virus.

Debbie Cassidy (WBZ-TV)

“When you see 10 people in hazmat suits going into your husband’s room, this is no joke,” Debbie said.

Now, Debbie is engaged in a new fight for death benefits. She testified in support of proposed legislation on Beacon Hill to give a lump sum of roughly $300,000 to the families of first responders in Massachusetts who die from COVID-19. Currently, first responders receive the benefit if they pass away from a violent act or accident related to work.

Representative Chris Hendricks from Bristol County is also in favor of the legislation.

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“Any police officer, any firefighter, any EMT worker who gets COVID-19 and unfortunately passes away from it, it’s deemed statutorily work related,” Hendricks said.

For now, families who lost officers to COVID-19 can collect federal benefits. According to Concerns of Police Survivors, a group advocating on behalf of families who lost police officers, the Federal Bureau of Justice Assistance, “will find that the evidence shows a public safety officer with COVID-19 contracted it in the line of duty, when the officer had engaged in line of duty action or activity under circumstances that indicate that it was medically possible that the officer was exposed to the virus.”

Debbie, McKenzie and Mike Cassidy (Family photo)

Four other police officers have died from COVID-19 in Massachusetts. All of their municipalities sought the federal benefit for their families, and one has received it.

Debbie says the City of New Bedford has not filled out the paperwork to seek federal benefits for her family.

“If he was shot, stabbed in a cruiser, got into an accident, whatever, there wouldn’t even be a question,” she said.

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New Bedford’s police chief was unavailable to comment on this story.

Louisa Moller