The Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives Monday following calls for action by Attorney General Ashley Moody leading a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general. In May, Attorney General Moody rallied a group of attorneys general in support of the SAFR Act to urge Congress to pass the important change to allow families of law enforcement officers who contract COVID-19, and die as a result, to receive benefits.
The Act would permit the families of first responders who die or are permanently and totally disabled as a result of COVID-19, to receive the same federal benefits extended to first responders, or their survivors, otherwise killed or injured in the line of duty.
“Sadly, Florida has already lost law enforcement officers to this deadly virus and no government action will ever replace these heroes, but with the SAFR Act we can at least offer assistance and a bit of comfort to the families of the brave law enforcement officers who risk their health and safety to protect ours,” said Moody, “I am grateful to the U.S. lawmakers who supported this important bill and look forward to seeing President Trump sign it into law.”
Current federal law only allows survivors access to certain benefits if evidence is provided proving the deceased or permanently disabled first responder contracted COVID-19 while on duty. The SAFR Act would establish a temporary presumption that an officer contracted COVID-19 while on duty if diagnosed within 45 days of a first responder’s last shift.
The legislation ensures families of officers and first responders lost while fighting the pandemic do not face unnecessary barriers to benefits already promised under existing federal law.
“We must support these brave men and women who face danger daily on our behalf. And as the wife of a law enforcement officer I can tell you we must also support their families should they make the ultimate sacrifice. That’s why I am leading a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general in urging congress to pass the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act,” said Moody, “The act permits the families of first responders who die of Covid-19 or are permanently disabled to receive the same federal benefits extended to first responders who are otherwise killed or injured in the line of duty.”
The U.S. Senate passed the SAFR Act in May. With the U.S. House passage of the SAFR Act today, the legislation now goes to President Donald J. Trump for signature.
In May, Moody sponsored a letter sent to Congress signed by 51 other attorneys general. The letter states, in part: “When public safety officers are called to respond, they do not know whether they are coming into contact with a person who is positive for COVID-19. We have seen harrowing stories about how public safety officers have taken heroic actions to save the lives of others, knowing that they risked infection in doing so.”