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SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a bipartisan coalition of 52 attorneys general in a letter urging Congress to pass the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act of 2020. The bill aims to support families of first responders who pass away after contracting COVID-19 during the current public health crisis by ensuring they do not face unnecessary barriers to obtaining benefits.
“Our partners in law enforcement put their lives on the line every day, and this current crisis makes those risks greater than ever,” said Attorney General Becerra. “If we’re going to ask first responders to sacrifice their safety for our own, then we need to support them and their families. That’s why our bipartisan coalition is urging Congress to pass the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act. At the California Department of Justice, we’re grateful to all those in the field and behind the scenes working to keep our communities safe.”
The U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program provides death benefits to survivors of police officers and first responders who perish in the line of duty or as the result of a work-related event. The program requires evidence linking deaths caused by an infectious disease to work-related activity. Determining where and when someone contracts COVID-19 amidst a global pandemic presents a unique challenge. The Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act of 2020 seeks to address this issue by establishing a temporary presumption that COVID-19 infections will be considered to be contracted while on duty if diagnosed within 45 days of an officer’s last shift. If passed, the legislation will help ensure families of officers and first responders who have lost their lives while fighting the pandemic do not face unnecessary barriers to benefits they have already been promised under existing federal law. 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. They risk their lives every day to keep us safe and the current public health crisis has made their sacrifice clearer than ever.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Attorney General Becerra remains committed to protecting Californians and people across the country. In May, he called on the Trump Administration to provide meaningful protections for meat and poultry processing plant workers forced to work in extremely unsafe conditions by the President’s executive order invoking the Defense Production Act. He filed misdemeanor price gouging charges against a California grocery store for allegedly increasing prices on food items by as much as 200 percent. In April, the Attorney General issued a bulletin to help ensure law enforcement agencies across California have the necessary information and tools to continue to respond to hate crime activity during the COVID-19 crisis. Attorney General Becerra also joined a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in calling on the Trump Administration to take further action to protect homeowners and mitigate the long-term economic effects of the pandemic for families across the country. More information on the California Department of Justice’s efforts to protect the public during COVID-19 is available on the Attorney General’s website at https://oag.ca.gov/consumers/COVID-19.
In submitting the letter, Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, Florida, Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, 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.
A copy of the letter is available here.