WV joins push to pass legislation safeguarding first responders

West Virginia

The Capitol is seen as lawmakers negotiate on the emergency coronavirus response legislation, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey joined a bipartisan coalition of 52 state and territory attorneys general urging Congress to pass the Safeguarding America’s First Responders (SAFR) Act.

The legislation, also known as Senate Bill 3607, would provide benefits for families of first responders who may have contracted COVID-19 while on the job.

“Our public safety officers risk their lives every day to keep us safe. But the COVID-19 pandemic has made their sacrifice clearer,” Attorney General Morrisey says the letter to Congress reads. “As public safety officers in our states have battled the COVID-19 pandemic, they have put themselves at risk while most Americans were able to stay home.”

The SAFR 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.

The legislation would also establish a temporary presumption that COVID-19 infections will be considered contracted while on duty if the first responder is diagnosed within 45 days of their last shift. The coalition says the act would ensure families of officers and first responders lost while fighting the pandemic do not face unnecessary barriers to benefits they have already been promised.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Safety Officers Benefits Program currently provides death benefits to survivors of police officers and first responders killed in the line of duty or as the result of a work-related event, however, it requires evidence linking deaths caused by infectious diseases to work-related activity, according to the coalition.

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