Bipartisan Senators Introduce Legislation to Enhance Benefits for First Responders

May 6, 2020 Updated: May 6, 2020

A bipartisan group of senators has created legislation to ensure families of front-line officers lost to COVID-19 can quickly get survivor benefits.

The Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act (SAFR) was introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), which clarifies the requirements for receiving survivor benefits under the Public Safety Officers Benefits Program (PSOB).

“Our first responders are on the frontlines of this pandemic, putting their own lives at risk every day to protect others. Many of them have made the ultimate sacrifice as a result of this crisis – and so have their families,” Sen. Cruz said. “This bipartisan legislation allows affected families to get the benefits they deserve as we work to ultimately defeat this deadly virus.”

To date, there are incomplete statistics about the number of first responders who have died from the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus. Only partial records exist on police officer and EMS personnel deaths, based on published local news reports.

“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,” Grassley said.

One of the reasons the senators drafted the new legislation is because PSOB requires evidence linking deaths caused by an infectious disease to work-related activity. But this pandemic is different because determining where and when someone contracts COVID-19 presents a unique challenge.

“While the PSOB Program does cover line of duty deaths and disabilities due to infectious diseases, we feel strongly that COVID-19 is unique and presents its own challenges in proving line of duty exposure. While with most other infectious diseases, it is easy to pinpoint the source and details surrounding the exposure, but this situation is more difficult with the new coronavirus and its asymptomatic spread,” William J. Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations told The Epoch Times in a statement.

“There must be no question that our country will support their families when the unthinkable happens. Our bipartisan legislation will make certain that the families of these heroes get the benefits they are rightfully owed.” Sen. Booker said.

SAFR aims to make it easier for families to get benefits by making a temporary presumption that COVID-19 infections were contracted while on duty if diagnosed within 45 days of an officer’s last shift.

“Our officers have found themselves in an extraordinary and dangerous situation over which they have very little control. For these reasons our association, the National Association of Police Organizations, supports this important legislation,” said Johnson.

Besides the National Association of Police Officers, this legislation is supported by the Fraternal Order of Police, 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.

Sens. 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.), and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) co-sponsored this legislation.