The federal Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program (PSOB) provides public safety workers (police, firefighters, EMTs, etc.) with a lump sum benefit if they are killed in the line of duty. Beneficiaries of first responders who have died of COVID-19-related illnesses during the pandemic have faced questions over their eligibility for PSOB payments due to the lack of clear evidence that the deceased worker actually contracted COVID-19 on the job.
Last week, President Donald Trump signed into law the Safeguarding America’s First Responders (SAFR) Act. This bipartisan measure addresses the PSOB causation issue by imposing a presumption that if the first responder dies of COVID-19 within 45 days of his or her last day on duty, the infection will be considered to have occurred at work. The presumption also extends to situations where evidence indicates that the first responder died of COVID-19, even in the absence of a positive test or other confirmation.
SAFR takes immediate effect and applies to first responders who worked between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021.