Senate Passes Bipartisan Bill Backed by Senators Shaheen, Hassan to Help Families of First Responders Lost to COVID-19

May 15, 2020

 Today New Hampshire Observes Peace Officers Memorial Day

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan ensuring that if a law enforcement officer or first responder loses their life or is permanently disabled due to COVID-19, it is treated as a line-of-duty incident so that their families receive the full benefits that they deserve. 

“Our law enforcement officers and other first responders have been working tirelessly during the COVID-19 crisis at great risk to themselves and their families. Their families must be taken care of should—god forbid—a tragedy occur, ” said Senator Shaheen. “This legislation makes certain that first responders and their families will receive the full benefits they need and deserve. I’m glad the Senate moved swiftly to advance this legislation, and I urge the House to pass it as soon as possible.”

“Law enforcement officers and first responders are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, facing unprecedented risks as they work to keep our communities safe,” said Senator Hassan. “If law enforcement officers or first responders contract COVID-19 and are killed or permanently disabled by it, it should be treated as a line-of-duty incident so that they and their families receive the full benefits that they deserve. That’s why it’s so important that the Senate passed this bipartisan bill, and I hope that the House will swiftly pass this bill as well.”

The Public Safety Officers Benefits Program, administered by the Department of Justice, provides death or disability benefits to law enforcement officers and first responders or their families if they are killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty or as the result of a work-related event. The program requires evidence linking deaths or disabilities caused by an infectious disease to work-related activity. In many cases, the origin of an infection can be easily identified, but determining where and when someone contracts COVID-19 in the midst of a global pandemic presents a unique challenge. Thus, the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act creates a presumption that if a first responder is diagnosed with COVID-19 within 45 days of their last day on duty, U.S. Department of Justice will treat it as a line of duty incident.

Senators Shaheen and Hassan previously announced that New Hampshire received $147 million in additional funding as a result of the CARES Act, which included $4.4 million in additional funding to support law enforcement as they respond to COVID-19. Senator Hassan also joined a bipartisan group of her colleagues in calling for a strong, coordinated federal effort to address the national shortage of personal protective equipment for front line workers including police officers, fire fighters, and EMTs.