DES MOINES, IOWA (May 21, 2020) ― Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller is joining a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general urging Congress to pass S3607, the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act.
The act would permit the families of first responders who die or are permanently and totally disabled as a result of COVID-19 to receive the same federal benefits extended to first responders, or their survivors, otherwise killed or injured in the line of duty. Current federal law would only allow survivors access to certain benefits if evidence is provided proving the deceased or permanently disabled first responder contracted COVID-19 while on duty.
Several Iowa law-enforcement officers and first-responders have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
“As our first responders risk their personal health and safety to protect us, it is crucial that we stand behind them in support in any way we can. This bill would take the necessary steps to provide assurance to our first responders and their families that they will be taken care of,” AG Miller said.
In a letter sent to Congress today, AG Miller and 51 other state attorneys-general urged quick passage of the SAFR Act. The letter states, in part, “When public safety officers are called to respond, they do not know whether they are coming into contact with a person who is positive for COVID-19. We have seen harrowing stories about how public safety officers have taken heroic actions to save the lives of others, knowing that they risked infection in doing so.”
The SAFR Act would establish a temporary presumption that officers contracted COVID-19 while on duty if diagnosed within 45 days of a first responder’s last shift. The legislation ensures families of officers and first responders lost while fighting the pandemic do not face unnecessary barriers to benefits already promised under existing federal law.
This legislation is sponsored by Sens Charles "Chuck" Grassley of Iowa and Cory Booker of New Jersey. It recently passed the US Senate and is currently being considered by the House of Representatives.
In addition to AG Miller, the attorneys-general joining the call to action were from Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.