Congressman Brian Higgins announced the House of Representatives approved H.R. 6509, the Public Safety Officer Pandemic Response Act of 2020. The bill amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to provide public safety officer death and disability benefits for certain first responders who contract COVID-19.
“For the public safety officers and first responders who risk their own personal health to protect our community during the current coronavirus outbreak, it is critical that we provide benefits in the event of death or disability from contracting COVID-19 in the line of duty,” Higgins said. “This legislation does right by our frontline responders, it does right by their families, and we are proud to support its passage.”
This new legislation expands eligibility for an existing federal program, the Public Safety Officers Benefits Program. A diagnosis of COVID-19 between Jan. 20, 2020, and Jan. 20, 2022 will now be considered a personal injury in the line of duty for public safety officers. Public safety officers diagnosed with COVID-19 leading to death or disability making them unable to work would be eligible for death or disability benefits under the Public Safety Officers Benefits Program.
Public safety officers are categorized as federal, state and local law enforcement officers and emergency management personnel, Customs and Border Protection officers, firefighters, chaplains, as well as emergency medical services members working for publicly operated or nonprofit agencies.
The Senate passed a similar bill on May 14.