The House passed legislation from Rep. Max Rose that offers support to public safety officers who contracted COVID-19 in the line of duty. Public safety officers include police, firefighters and other first responders, like ambulance crews.
Rose’s bill expands an existing federal program to ensure that public safety officers who catch the coronavirus on the job are eligible for benefits if they become disabled or pass away. In recent weeks, Rose has urged the House to pass the new legislation as officers continue to work through the pandemic.
“When this bill becomes law—and it will become law—the family of an officer who was catastrophically injured or lost their life will not have to jump through hoops to prove it was because of the coronavirus,” Rose said in a speech on the House floor. “They won’t have to spend ten years litigating trying to convince the government that their sacrifice meant something. Today we’re not cutting red tape, we’re stopping the red tape from happening in the first place.”
Right now, public safety officers and their families are eligible for benefits under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefit (PSOB) program if the officer becomes disabled or passes away in the line of duty. The current program is administered by the Department of Justice. Rose’s new legislation, called the Public Safety Officer Pandemic Response Act of 2020 would expand the program to include COVID-19 as an eligible injury.
The current PSOB program has been amended before to help public safety officers. For example, it was changed in 2001 following the attacks on 9/11 to include officers who were injured or killed responding to the emergency.
“On 9/11, they rushed into the towers. During Hurricane Sandy, they braved a superstorm. And now during a pandemic, they are on the front lines against an invisible enemy that has claimed more than 100,000 lives nationwide. Think of the toll this pandemic has taken on these everyday heroes.” Rose said during his speech on the House floor.
Rose has also worked in other ways to ensure that workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic and their families receive the benefits they deserve. He helped introduce the Essential Worker Pandemic Compensation Act, which would provide a tax-free death benefit and additional support for surviving spouses and children of essential workers who pass away from the virus.