Sen. Cruz Cosponsors Bipartisan Senate Bill to Help Families of First Responders Lost to COVID-19 Access Public Service Benefits
May 5, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C - As America's first responders face perils on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, a bipartisan group of senators is working to ensure families of public safety officers lost to COVID-19 can quickly access survivor benefits. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) joined Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in introducing the Safeguarding America's First Responders Act (SAFR) that clarifies the certification requirements for survivor benefits under the Public Safety Officers Benefits Program to account for the unique challenges presented by the pandemic. Joining Sens. Cruz, Grassley and Booker in the legislation are 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.).
"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."
"America's first responders are on the front lines in the fight against the pandemic, and sadly, some have already contracted the disease and died while working to keep our communities healthy and safe, Sen. Grassley said. "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."
"Our first responder risk their lives each day to protect us from the threat of COVID-19, and many have already made the ultimate sacrifice," Sen. Booker said. "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."
The Public Safety Officers Benefits Program, administered by the Justice Department, provides death benefits to survivors of police officers and first responders who perish in the line of duty or as the result of a work-related event. The program requires evidence linking deaths caused by an infectious disease to work-related activity. In many cases, the origin of an infection can be easily identified, but determining where and when someone contracts COVID-19 in the midst of a global pandemic presents a unique challenge.
SAFR works to overcome this challenge 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. The legislation is endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Police Organizations, 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.