Senate passes bill ensuring LODD benefits for first responder virus deaths

The bill temporarily presumes COVID-19 to be work-related if diagnosed within 45 days of a first responder's last shift


By Laura French

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate has passed a bill that establishes a temporary presumption that COVID-19 is a work-related injury, ensuring that families of first responders who die from the disease will receive line-of-duty death benefits through the Public Safety Officers Benefits Program. 

The Safeguarding America's First Responders (SAFR) Act will also allow first responders who become permanently disabled due to COVID-19 to receive disability benefits through the program. The bill was supported by several public safety organizations, including the International Association of Fire Fighters, International Association of Fire Chiefs, Fraternal Order of Police and National Association of Police Officers.

The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed a bill that will provide line-of-duty death and disability benefits to first responders who die or are permanently disabled due to COVID-19. The bill creates the presumption that COVID-19 is work-related if diagnosed within 45 days of a first responder's last shift. (Photo/United States Senate)
The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed a bill that will provide line-of-duty death and disability benefits to first responders who die or are permanently disabled due to COVID-19. The bill creates the presumption that COVID-19 is work-related if diagnosed within 45 days of a first responder's last shift. (Photo/United States Senate)

"Today's vote sends a loud and clear message to America's public safety officers: We appreciate your steadfast dedication in the most trying times and we're here to help if the unthinkable happens. Losing a first responder in the line of duty is always devastating. Families of those lost to COVID-19 shouldn't face an uphill struggle to access financial support promised to them," said bill co-author and sponsor Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in a statement. "This bipartisan bill recognizes the unique challenges posed by this pandemic and better ensures that public safety officers' families can quickly access financial help." 

The bill was co-authored by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and passed unanimously. The bill will now need to pass in the U.S. House of Representatives and then be signed by President Donald Trump to become law. 

"Our firefighters, police officers, EMTs, and other emergency services personnel risk their lives to keep us safe, and face significantly increased hazards during this pandemic. A staggering number of public safety officers have already lost their lives to COVID-19, and we must make sure that their families are supported when they face unimaginable loss – and that's exactly what this bill does," Booker said in a statement. "I am proud to have worked with Senator Grassley to write and quickly move this bipartisan legislation through the senate so no families are left behind, and so our brave first responders can go to work knowing that we have their backs." 

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