Attorney General Tong Urges Congress to Pass Safeguarding America's First Responders Act(Hartford, CT) -- Attorney General William Tong today joined a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general urging Congress to pass S.3607, the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act. 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. Current federal law would only allow survivors access to certain benefits if evidence is provided proving the deceased or permanently disabled first responder contracted COVID-19 while on duty.
“We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the first responders who put their lives on the line to protect ours. In many instances, the vital work they do requires close human contact, and they are at increased risk for contracting COVID-19. This legislation is one small thing our nation can do to ensure the survivors of any first responders lost to COVID-19 are taken care of,” said Attorney General Tong.
In a letter sent to Congress today, Attorney General Tong and 51 other state attorneys general urged quick passage of the SAFR Act. 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.”
To read the entire letter, click here.
The SAFR Act would establish a temporary presumption that officers 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.
This legislation is sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. It recently passed the United States Senate and is currently being considered by the House of Representatives.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine co-sponsored the letter. The attorneys general joining the call to action include: Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.