WASHINGTON – This week, Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14), alongside Representatives Marcia Fudge (OH-11) and Anthony Gonzalez (OH-16), introduced bipartisan legislation to improve timely access to financial assistance for families of first responders and public safety officers lost to COVID-19. The Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act clarifies certification requirements for survivor benefits under the Public Safety Officers Benefits Program to account for the unique challenges presented by the current coronavirus pandemic.
“This pandemic has underscored the fact that our first responders and public safety officers are our first line of defense in our communities when disaster strikes,” said Joyce. “Each and every day these brave men and women continue to serve and protect our communities despite the threat that COVID-19 poses. I am proud to introduce this bipartisan bill to ensure that the families of our courageous first responders and public safety officers receive the benefits they deserve should they lose their loved one due to exposure to COVID-19.”
“First responders who put themselves in harm’s way each and every day need to know we have their backs,” said Rep. Fudge. “In this unprecedented time, delays can often occur within the Public Safety Officers Benefits program. Families of first responders can’t afford to wait as they grieve the loss of loved ones or continue care for family members who become permanently disabled due to this pandemic. For this reason, I am proud to join Congressman Joyce in introducing this bipartisan legislation ensuring the families of first responders lost or disabled while combatting COVID-19 can quickly access the benefits they were promised and deserve.”
“Public safety officers put their lives on the line every day as they continue to serve our communities as we combat the COVID-19 pandemic. In return, it is our responsibility to ensure those they leave behind are taken care of should they fall in the line of duty fighting this disease,” said Congressman Gonzalez. “The Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act ensures our nation fulfills its promise to these men and women and that any family of a public safety officer lost to COVID-19 is cared for and able to quickly receive the support they’ve been promised.”
Specifically, the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act 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 will:
- guarantee payment of benefits to any first responder who dies from COVID-19 or a complication therefrom;
- run from January 1, 2020 through December 31, 2021; and
- 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.
You can view the full text of the legislation here.