Congress passes Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act

July 21, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
Congress passes Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act
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sent to President Donald Trump for his signature.

The legislation will expand an existing federal program to ensure that public safety officers who contract COVID-19 in the line of duty are eligible for benefits should they become disabled or die from the virus.

Currently, public safety officers or their families are eligible to receive benefits under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefit (PSOB) program, administered by the Department of Justice, upon death or disability caused by injury or illness sustained in the line of duty. The bill will expand the program to include COVID-19 as an eligible personal injury.

“The last thing a grieving family or recovering first responder should be dealing with is fighting with the government to prove where or how they got sick,” said U.S. Rep. Max Rose. “These heroes have been on the frontlines of this pandemic from day one and we can never forget that. They were there for us and this law will ensure that we’ll be there for them.”

The act establishes that a diagnosis of COVID-19 will be presumed to constitute a personal injury in the line of duty for the purposes of eligibility for the PSOB program, unless the officer was not on duty in the relevant time period, and ensure that officers engaged in a line of duty action or activity between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021 are covered. It also broadens the scope of presumption to ensure that if evidence indicates that public safety officers contracted COVID-19 without diagnosis, these officers and their families would be eligible for benefits.

Rose previously introduced similar legislation, which passed the House of Representatives in May.

“When this bill becomes law — and it will become law — the family of an officer who was catastrophically injured or lost their life will not have to jump through hoops to prove it was because of the coronavirus,” Rose said earlier in the year. “They won’t have to spend ten years litigating trying to convince the government that their sacrifice meant something … we’re not cutting red tape, we’re stopping the red tape from happening in the first place.”

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