TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — An important bill was just passed to protect the families of first responders.
The US House of Representatives just passed the the Safeguarding America's First Responders Act. The US Senate passed it in May.
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, otherwise killed or injured in the line of duty. It includes firefighters.
Current federal law only allows survivors access to certain benefits.
This 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.
Florida has lost officers to coronavirus.
Florida's Attorney General, Ashley Moody, lead a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general to get this passed.
"Florida law enforcement officers and their families deserve our support. And this act will show them that we appreciate all they do to keep us safe. And that we are grateful for their service in the face of this invisible enemy," says Moody.
Attorney General Moody sponsored a letter sent to Congress signed by 51 other attorneys general.
Rep. Charlie Crist and Kathy Castor voted for it in the House.
Sen. Rick Scott, a sponsor of the senate version of this bill, gave us this statement:
"First responders put their lives at risk every day to protect others, and Senator Scott will do everything he can to support these heroes. Senator Scott is proud to sponsor the Safeguarding America's First Responders Act to support families of the first responders on the frontline of this crisis and give them some peace of mind amid heartbreak."
Crist sent us this response:
“First Responders have been out here every day putting their health and safety on the line to help others. Even during the shutdowns when so many sheltered at home to stay safe from the virus, first responders were hard at work. America could not be more grateful for their service, but it is important that we express that gratitude not just with words – but with action,” said Crist.
“The SAFR Act would do just that – for any first responder killed or injured by COVID, it presumes they contracted it in the line of duty. We’ve heard stories of families of the fallen trying to prove that their loved one contracted Coronavirus on the job. That’s unconscionable! Under this bill, those who show up first in a COVID emergency or any emergency will get the benefit they have earned.”
The legislation now goes to President Trump for signature.
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