Tester Announces Support for Legislation Guaranteeing Benefits to Families of Fallen Pandemic First Responders

Senator: “Taking care of our first responders and their families is a solemn promise I will not allow us to break”

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced that he will be cosponsoring the Safeguarding America’s First Responders (SAFR) Act, which make it easier for families of first responders lost to COVID-19 to receive benefits through the Public Safety Officers Benefits Program (PSOB).

“Throughout this pandemic, Montana’s first responders have continued to selflessly serve and protect communities across our state,” said Tester. “Taking care of our first responders and their families is a solemn promise I will not allow us to break, and I’m proud to back this legislation that will ensure these families receive the benefits they deserve.”

The PSOB provides benefits to first responders or their families if they are injured or killed in the line of duty. Law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency management agencies, emergency medical services agencies, and families of individuals who lose their life in the line of duty are eligible for benefits.

The bipartisan SAFR Act would create a presumption for first responders diagnosed with COVID-19 within 45 days of their last day on duty, or if their family can show evidence that their loved one passed away from COVID-19 or complications from the virus. The Department of Justice will then treat it as a line of duty incident and guarantee payment of benefits.

Tester has led the fight to ensure Montana’s first responders get the support they need to help win the fight against the pandemic. Late last month he successfully pushed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to open up $100 million of appropriated funding for first responders to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies to address COVID-19. Tester successfully secured the $100 million in FEMA Assistance for Firefighters Grant Program (AFGP) funding as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. He also recently secured nearly $5 million for Montana law enforcement to help combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Visit tester.senate.gov/coronavirusresouces for a list of resources for Montanans during the COVID-19 outbreak