Bipartisan Senate Bill Helps Families of First Responders Lost to COVID Access Public Service Benefits
May 05 2020
Washington – Today, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) to introduce the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act (SAFR). The bipartisan bill will clarify the certification requirements for survivor benefits under the Public Safety Officers Benefits Program to account for the unique challenges presented by the pandemic.
In addition to Feinstein, Grassley and Booker, the legislation is supported by Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
The Public Safety Officers Benefits Program, administered by the Justice Department, provides death benefits to survivors of police officers and first responders who perish in the line of duty or as the result of a work-related event. The program requires evidence linking deaths caused by an infectious disease to work-related activity. In many cases, the origin of an infection can be easily identified, but determining where and when someone contracts the coronavirus in the midst of a global pandemic presents a unique challenge.
SAFR works to overcome this challenge by establishing a temporary presumption that coronavirus infections will be considered to be contracted while on duty if diagnosed within 45 days of an officer’s last shift. The legislation ensures that families of officers and first responders lost while fighting the pandemic don’t face unnecessary barriers to benefits they’ve already been promised. The legislation is endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Police Officers, Federal Law Enforcement Officer Association, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the Sergeants Benevolent Association of New York and the National Association of School Resource Officers.
Safeguarding America’s First Responders (SAFR) Act: