Sen. Moran Joins Bill to Help Families of First Responders Lost to COVID-19 Access Public Service Benefits
May 07 2020
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) joined a group of bipartisan Senators this week in introducing the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act (SAFR) that clarifies the certification requirements for survivor benefits under the Public Safety Officers Benefits Program to account for the unique challenges presented by the pandemic. This legislation would make certain families of public safety officers lost to COVID-19 can quickly access survivor benefits.
“Our law enforcement officers continue to show up for work every day during this pandemic despite the added risk of contracting coronavirus,” said Sen. Moran. “As a country, we support and care for the families of first responders when they pass away from a work-related event, but this bill recognizes the threat COVID-19 has on law enforcement and helps provide the families of our law enforcement officers with the benefits they are owed.”
“America’s first responders are on the front lines in the fight against the pandemic, and sadly, some have already contracted the disease and died while working to keep our communities healthy and safe,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). “Their loss is not only emotionally devastating, but it also means lost wages in an economically challenging time. The government already provides payments to families of officers or first responders who die from a work-related event, but this bipartisan bill recognizes the unique challenges posed by this pandemic and better ensures that public safety officers’ families can quickly access the financial help they’ve been promised.”
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 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 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.
This legislation was led by Sens. Grassley and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and cosponsored by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), 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.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).