This week, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., threw his support behind a proposal to help the survivors of first responders who die during the coronavirus pandemic quickly obtain benefits.
Joining more than 10 other senators as a cosponsor, Scott is backing the “Safeguarding America’s First Responders (SAFR) Act” from U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker.
“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. 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,” Grassley said on Tuesday.
“Our first responders risk their lives each day to protect us from the threat of COVID-19, and many have already made the ultimate sacrifice. 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,” Booker said.
Scott weighed in on Wednesday morning on the proposal.
Our first responders put their lives at risk every day to protect others, and we have to do everything we can to support these heroes. I’m proud to join my colleagues to sponsor this legislation to support families of the first responders on the frontline of this crisis and give them some peace of mind amid heartbreak,” Scott said.
The bill reforms the U.S. Justice Department’s Public Safety Officers Benefits Program “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” and ensuring “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 Fraternal Order of Police, the National Association of Police Officers, the 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 are all backing the bill.
The proposal was sent to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. So far, there is no counterpart over in the U.S. House.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.