WASHINGTON – Today, legislation authored by Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) to improve timely access to financial assistance for families of first responders and public safety officers exposed to COVID-19, the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act of 2020,was signed into law. According to the International Association of Fire Chiefs, more than 13,000 firefighters and first responders have been exposed to COVID-19 while on the job, resulting in 76 deaths. According to the Fraternal Order of Police, 164 police officers have died in the line of duty due to COVID-19 as of July 27, 2020.
“Despite the threat that COVID-19 poses, our firefighters, police officers and first responders continue to risk their lives every day to keep us and our families safe,” said Joyce. “That’s why I was proud to introduce legislation to ensure their families are taken care of and should they fall victim to this deadly virus. I applaud my colleagues in Congress for working together to get this important bill passed and thank the President for signing it into law.”
“I thank President Trump and Congress for signing and passing this important legislation. Every day, first responders are risking COVD-19 exposure as they serve their communities,” said Chief Gary Ludwig, President and Chairman of the Board of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. “Should they make the ultimate sacrifice in service to their fellow citizens, they will rest assured that the nation will take care of their families.”
“We knew at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that law enforcement officers on the frontlines combating this pandemic would be increasingly vulnerable to contracting the virus,” said Patrick Yoes, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police. “At a time of heightened risk from this pandemic, we believe this legislation is necessary to ensure that these officers and their families, who are not able to ‘stay at home’ during this crisis, will be taken care of in the event they are disabled and unable to continue to serve as law enforcement officers.”
“We applaud the signing of the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act of 2020,” said Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) President Larry Cosme. “Since the pandemic began, FLEOA has worked tirelessly and purposefully to ensure every law enforcement officer’s health needs have been prioritized and their families would be cared for. The signing of this bill into law ensures that families of frontline federal, state, and local law enforcement officers who succumb to COVID-19 are protected and provided for. This act ensures that any first responder’s family that is in need of PSOB benefits will have access to them, allowing law enforcement officers to work a little easier knowing that their nation has their back.”
In May, Joyce introduced bipartisan legislation to clarify certification requirements for survivor benefits under the Public Safety Officers Benefits Program to account for the unique challenges presented by the current coronavirus pandemic. Identical legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senator Chuck Grassley and passed both the Senate and the House by the end of July. Now law, the legislation creates a presumption that if a first responder is diagnosed with COVID-19 within 45 days of their last day on duty, the Department of Justice will treat it as a line of duty incident. The presumption:
- guarantees payment of benefits to any first responder who dies from COVID-19 or a complication therefrom;
- runs from January 1, 2020 through December 31, 2021; and
- requires 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.
You can read the text of the legislation here.