Joyce bill extends death benefits to families of public safety officers who die from COVID-19

U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) on May 27 proposed a bipartisan bill that would extend death benefits to the families of public safety officers whose death is caused by COVID-19.

“I am proud to introduce this bipartisan bill to ensure that the families of our courageous first responders and public safety officers receive the benefits they deserve should they lose their loved one due to exposure to COVID-19,” Rep. Joyce said.

The congressman sponsored the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act of 2020, H.R. 7031, with original cosponsor U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) to clarify certification requirements for survivor benefits under the Public Safety Officers Benefits Program that would account for the unique challenges presented by the current coronavirus pandemic.

“This pandemic has underscored the fact that our first responders and public safety officers are our first line of defense in our communities when disaster strikes,” said Rep. Joyce. “Each and every day these brave men and women continue to serve and protect our communities despite the threat that COVID-19 poses.”

If enacted, H.R. 7031 would create a presumption that if a first responder is diagnosed with COVID-19 within 45 days of their last day on duty, the U.S. Department of Justice then would treat it as a line-of-duty incident, according to a bill summary provided by Rep. Joyce’s office.

Subsequently, the presumption would guarantee payment of benefits to any first responder who dies from COVID-19 or from a related complication; run from Jan. 1, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2021; and require a diagnosis of COVID-19 or evidence indicating that the officer had COVID-19 at the time of death, according to the summary.

“In this unprecedented time, delays can often occur within the Public Safety Officers Benefits program,” said Rep. Fudge. “I am proud to join Congressman Joyce in introducing this bipartisan legislation ensuring the families of first responders lost or disabled while combating COVID-19 can quickly access the benefits they were promised and deserve.”