TOPEKA – (July 20, 2020) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt today applauded U.S. House of Representatives passage of legislation he supported to remove barriers to receiving federal benefits for families of first responders who die or are disabled as a result of COVID-19.
The measure, known as the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act of 2020 (SAFR Act), establishes a temporary presumption that a first responder contracted COVID-19 while on duty if diagnosed within 45 days of his or her last shift. Schmidt and 51 other state and territory attorneys general sent a letter in May urging Congress to pass the act.
“This measure recognizes the sacrifices that our nation’s first responders are making to protect the public’s safety and provide life-saving care during these challenging times,” Schmidt said. “Sadly, our frontline workers can become victims themselves. This act will ensure they and their families are treated fairly and not subjected to undue bureaucratic delays in their time of need.”
Before unanimously passing the House today, the SAFR Act passed the Senate in May and now awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.
Current federal law, the Public Safety Officer’s Benefits program, provides death and disability benefits to qualified survivors of police officers and first responders who lose their life in the line of duty or as the result of a work-related event. However, survivors may only access certain benefits if evidence is provided showing the deceased or permanently disabled first responder contracted COVID-19 while on duty. The attorneys general argued in the letter that determining where and when someone contracts COVID-19 in the midst of a global pandemic presents a unique challenge deserving of a unique response.
Schmidt has prioritized addressing the risks and burdens first responders and front-line workers bear during this crisis at both the federal and state level. In a letter sent in May, he asked Congress to enact reasonable protections from COVID-19-related liability for first responders, healthcare workers, and members of law enforcement among others. Schmidt has also asked Kansas legislative leaders to review state-level benefits for first responders and front-line workers who contract COVID-19.
A copy of the attorneys general’s letter supporting the SAFR Act is available at https://bit.ly/3g8VBag.