Legislation to ensure fire fighters who die or are permanently and totally disabled due to COVID-19 receive full federal benefits passed the U.S. Senate unanimously. S 3607, the Safeguarding America’s First Responders (SAFR) Act of 2020, was introduced only days ago by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ).
“Fire fighters are on the frontlines of the battle against the current pandemic,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “Those who die in the line of duty shouldn’t have to prove how they contracted COVID-19. The SAFR Act ensures that the families of the fallen receive deserved benefits quickly.”
As the first healthcare providers responding to pre-hospital 9-1-1 calls, fire fighters are in constant close proximity to patients needing medical attention and at high risk for contracting the disease. Absent the presumptive coverage provided by S 3607, fire fighters would be required to show they contracted the virus in the workplace, a nearly impossible task. In most instances, responders do not know if a patient has COVID-19. Additionally, many patients do not display typical symptoms. Fire fighters and emergency medical personnel typically run multiple medical calls a day and have no way of knowing if any individual interaction resulted in transmission.
To date, at least eight IAFF members have died from COVID-19 and tens of thousands of members have been exposed. These numbers are guaranteed to rise.
“Fire fighters put their lives on the line to serve their communities and help stop the spread of the virus,” says Schaitberger. “They deserve to know their families will be cared for if they die in the line of duty.”
The IAFF is working with the U.S. House of Representatives to schedule a vote so the bill can be swiftly signed into law.