Press Releases

President Signs Into Law Rose-backed Bill Ensuring Benefits for Public Safety Officers with COVID-19

Law will presume officers who die or are disabled from COVID-19 contracted the virus on-duty

Staten Island, August 19, 2020

Congressman Max Rose, who led efforts in the House of Representatives to ensure public safety officers who contract the coronavirus while on duty are eligible to receive death and disability benefits, issued the following statement on President Donald Trump signing into law the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act late last week:

 

“In the midst of this pandemic, with so many continuing to put their lives on the line to protect and serve, it’s never been more important for all of us to rise above politics and have the backs of those who have always had ours,” said Rose. “I appreciate the President signing this bill into law so our heroes and their families won’t have to spend years jumping through hoops to get the benefits they deserve.”

 

The legislation will expand an existing federal program to ensure that public safety officers who contract COVID-19 in the line of duty are eligible for benefits should they become disabled or die from the virus. Rose previously introduced similar legislation, which passed the House of Representatives in May, and worked with the Senate sponsors and House leadership to get this effort across the finish line.

 

When this bill becomes law—and it will become law—the family of an officer who was catastrophically injured or lost their life will not have to jump through hoops to prove it was because of the coronavirus,” Rose said in a speech on this effort earlier this year. “They won’t have to spend ten years litigating trying to convince the government that their sacrifice meant something … we’re not cutting red tape, we’re stopping the red tape from happening in the first place.”

 

“Fire fighters who die in the line of duty shouldn’t have to prove how they contracted COVID-19,” said International Association of Fire Fighters General President Harold Schaitberger. “By passing the SAFR Act, Congress recognizes the danger inherent in the jobs of public safety officers on the frontlines of the current pandemic, and rightly affords the families of the fallen the benefits they deserve. We appreciate the leadership of Congressman Max Rose in helping move this important legislation across the finish line in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

 

The Safeguarding America's First Responders Act will:

  • Establish that a diagnosis for COVID-19 will be presumed to constitute a personal injury in the line of duty for the purposes of eligibility for the Public Safety Officer Benefit (PSOB) program, unless the officer was not on duty in the relevant time period.
  • Ensure that officers engaged in a line of duty action or activity between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021 are covered under this bill.
  • Broadens the scope of presumption to ensure that if evidence indicates that a public safety officer contracted COVID–19 without diagnosis, these officers and their families would be eligible for benefits.

 

Public safety officers or their families are eligible to receive benefits under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefit (PSOB) program, administered by the Department of Justice, upon death or disability caused by injury or illness sustained in the line of duty. The Safeguarding America's First Responders Act will expand the program to include COVID-19 as an eligible personal injury. In the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the PSOB program was amended to ensure those killed and injured on 9/11 were immediately eligible for the program.

 

Rose has led efforts to ensure those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic and their families receive the care and benefits they deserve. Rose helped introduce the Essential Worker Pandemic Compensation Act which would provide a tax-free death benefit and additional support for the postsecondary education of surviving spouses and children of deceased essential workers. The bill would also provide a cash benefit to essential workers who are hospitalized due to the coronavirus and recover.

 

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