Senate Unanimously Passes Tester Bill Guaranteeing Benefits to Families of Fallen or Disabled Pandemic First Responders
Senator: “When the going gets tough, Montana’s first responders always answer the call”
During National Police Week, the Senate today unanimously passed U.S. Senator Jon Tester’s Safeguarding America’s First Responders (SAFR) Act, a bill that makes it easier for first responders who are disabled or die as a result of COVID-19 to receive benefits through the Public Safety Officers Benefits Program (PSOB).
“Today my colleagues on both sides of the aisle came together to pass a commonsense fix that’ll better serve the first responders and families that sacrifice everything to keep us safe,” said Tester. “When the going gets tough, Montana’s first responders always answer the call—and we’ve got to keep our end of the bargain by ensuring they get 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 these disability and education 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 there is other evidence that the injuries or death were a result of 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 and other supplies to address COVID-19. Tester successfully secured the $100 million in FEMA Assistance for Firefighters Grant program 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