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Pascrell-Backed Legislation Supporting First Responders Signed into Law

Measure 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 the signing into law of S.3607, the Safeguarding America's First Responders Act of 2020, 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, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY-10), and Rep. Max Rose (NY-11) introduced similar legislation in April (H.R. 6509), which was included in the HEROES Act and was also passed separately in the House of Representatives the following month.

“As America grapples with COVID-19, our first responders are putting their lives on the line like never before. Enactment of this law today can provide some deserved peace of mind to these heroes and their families. The Department of Justice must now swiftly pay out benefits due to beneficiaries,” 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 in May. While that critical plan to fight the pandemic remains held up in the Senate, today’s signing is welcome news. Congress and the federal government must continue to support our first responders until this crisis is firmly behind us.”

Rep. Pascrell has led 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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