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Pascrell Praises House Approval of Legislation to Support First Responders

Legislation will provide line-of-duty benefits to families of first responders who contract COVID-19

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) today praised House passage of the Safeguarding America's First Responders Act of 2020 (S.3607), which will ensure that public safety officers who contract COVID-19 in the line of duty are eligible for benefits for their families should they become disabled or die from the virus. Rep. Pascrell and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY-10) introduced similar legislation in April (H.R. 6509), which passed in the House of Representatives the following month.

“America has lost too many first responders to COVID-19 and today’s approval can provide these heroes and their families with the peace of mind and benefits they deserve,” said Rep. Pascrell, co-chair of the Congressional Law Enforcement Caucus and the Fire Services Caucus. “I want to thank Chairman Jerry Nadler and Congressman Max Rose, as well as Senators Cory Booker and Chuck Grassley, for their persistence and leadership on this issue. I led a bipartisan letter of 160 members demanding a presumption be passed months ago and a similar provision was included in our HEROES Act, which the House passed more than 60 days ago. While that critical plan to support Americans and fight the pandemic remains held up in the Senate, approving this provision today is welcome news. The bill must now be signed and enacted by the Justice Department with the urgency our first responders deserve.”

Rep. Pascrell has been leading this effort since early April when he authored a letter signed by 160 House members calling for the line of duty presumption to be extended. The families of fallen Paterson Police Officer Frank Scorpo and Passaic Firefighter Israel Tolentino would automatically qualify for benefits under this bill.

Currently, public safety officers or their families are eligible to receive benefits under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefit program, administered by the U.S. Department of Justice, upon death or disability caused by injury or illness sustained in the line of duty. The legislation passed today would expand the program to include COVID-19 as an eligible personal injury. In the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Congress passed into law a bill to amend the PSOB to ensure those killed and injured on 9/11 were immediately eligible for the program.

Pascrell is also leading the way on broader reforms for the PSOB program with the Protecting America’s First Responders Act (H.R. 2812).

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