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Attorney General Nessel and 51 other AGs Urge Congress to Pass Safeguarding America's First Responders Act
May 21, 2020
LANSING — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined a coalition of 52 attorneys general in urging Congress to pass S.3607, the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act (SAFR 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.
COVID-19 continues to affect communities across the state that first responders continue to support and protect. Current federal law would only allow survivors of a deceased first responder access to certain benefits if evidence is provided proving the deceased or permanently disabled first responder contracted COVID-19 while on duty.
In a letter sent to Congress today, Nessel and 51 other AGs 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.”
"Our first responders run toward danger without hesitation and risk their lives day in and day out to protect us. COVID-19 has cast a layer of uncertainty, fear and pain for thousands of people in Michigan, but what remains certain is the unwavering commitment of those on the front lines of this crisis,” said Nessel. “This pandemic has forced us to accept the harsh reality that many of our first responders are paying the ultimate sacrifice. The least we can do is ensure that the families of these brave men and women do not face unnecessary barriers to benefits while they grieve the unfathomable loss of their loved one.”
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 Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. It recently passed the United States Senate and is currently being considered by the House of Representatives.
Attorney General Nessel joins the attorneys general of Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, 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 in signing this letter.
A copy of the letter is available here.