Capito, Hassan co-sponsor legislation to help families of First Responders lost to COVID-19


WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) yesterday co-sponsored the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act (SAFR), legislation that clarifies the certification requirements for survivor benefits under the Public Safety Officers Benefits Program to account for the unique challenges presented by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Our public safety officers have courageously stepped up throughout this pandemic, sacrificing so much in the process. It is only right that these benefits are extended to the family members of first responders who lost their battle to this horrible disease. I am incredibly thankful for the service of our public safety officers, who work every day to keep our communities safe. I will continue to advocate on behalf of the brave first responders in West Virginia as we respond to this crisis,” said Senator Capito.

“Law enforcement and first responders are facing unprecedented risk to their lives as they serve communities in New Hampshire and across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Hassan. “Our first priority is providing law enforcement officers with the equipment and support that they need to stay safe, but we also must ensure that if they contract and succumb to COVID-19, their families will receive the line-of-duty benefits they deserve.” 

WHAT THE BILL DOES: 

  • Creates a presumption that if a first responder is diagnosed with COVID-19 within 45 days of their last day on duty, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will treat it as a line of duty incident.
  • The presumption will guarantee payment of benefits to any first responder who dies from COVID-19 or a complication therefrom. 
  • The presumption will run from January 1, 2020 through December 31, 2021. 
  • The presumption will require a diagnosis of COVID-19 or evidence indicating that the officer had COVID-19 at the time of death. This covers officers in high impact areas where finding tests can be difficult. 

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND:

The Public Safety Officers Benefits Program, administered by DOJ, 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 COVID-19 in the midst of a global pandemic presents a unique challenge.

SAFR works to overcome this challenge by establishing a temporary presumption that COVID-19 infections will be considered to be contracted while on duty if diagnosed within 45 days of an officer’s last shift. The legislation also 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 (FOP), National Association of Police Officers, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the Sergeants Benevolent Association of New York, and the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO).

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