Expanding survivor benefits

The U.S. Senate today passed a bipartisan bill cosponsored by U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) to expand access to survivor benefits for families of fallen first responders due to Coronavirus. The Safeguarding America’s First Responders (SAFR) Act would establish the presumption that if a first responder contracts the Coronavirus within 45 days of their last day on duty and then subsequently passes away, the Department of Justice (DOJ) would classify the cause of death as a line of duty incident. This classification would guarantee access to DOJ’s Public Safety Officers’ Benefit program – which provides either a one-time lump sum payment of $359,316, or education assistance of $1,224.00 per month to the children or spouse of a fallen first responder who perished in the line of duty or as the result of a work-related event. The bipartisan bill will now be sent to the U.S. House of Representatives for approval.

“Michigan first responders are on the frontlines of this pandemic and sadly some have made the ultimate sacrifice. Grieving families of first responders that have lost a loved one because of Coronavirus should not have to fight through bureaucratic red tape to receive the benefits they are entitled to,” said Senator Peters, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “This bipartisan legislation would help more families in Michigan and across the nation that have already lost so much gain survivor benefits. I will continue working to ensure this critical measure is enacted into law.”

Recognizing that determining where or when someone contracts COVID-19 in the midst of a global pandemic presents a unique challenge, this legislation would establish a temporary period of presumption from January 1, 2020 through December 31, 2021.

This legislation ensures that families of police officers and first responders lost while fighting the pandemic don’t face unnecessary barriers to benefits they have already been promised.

The measure will also cover first responders in high-impact areas where testing access is currently limited.

This legislation is supported by the Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Police Officers, International Association of Fire Fighters, International Association of Fire Chiefs, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and the National Association of School Resource Officers.

Peters has led numerous efforts to expand resources for first responders and their families during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this week, the House announced a Coronavirus package that includes a provision based on Peters’ COVID-19 Heroes Fund proposal.

Peters also last week announced a proposal to provide local governments with direct federal relief, which is vital to helping ensure communities can continue to provide critical services and avoid potential layoffs of first responders among others.

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