Photo Courtesy of FDNY
The Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act would ensure that families of first responders lost to COVID-19 are able to quickly access survivor benefits.
By Forum Staff
A new bipartisan bill would ensure that families of first responders lost to COVID-19 are able to quickly access survivor benefits, U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (both D-N.Y.), two of the measure’s sponsors recently announced.
The Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act clarifies the certification requirements for survivor benefits under the Public Safety Officers Benefits Program to account for the unique challenges presented by the pandemic.
The PSOB program, administered by the Justice Department, provides public safety officers who are killed in the line of duty with a one-time lump sum payment of $359,316 and/or education assistance of $1,224.00 per month to their children or spouse. Infectious diseases are covered under a line-of-duty death as long as evidence indicates that the infectious disease was contracted while on duty. Providing evidence that a deadly disease was contracted on duty can be straightforward in instances where an officer comes into contact with a dirty needle however, in the case of COVID-19, it can be very difficult to provide evidence that the virus was contracted on duty, according to the elected officials.
The SAFR works to overcome current challenges 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.