Georgia joins states pushing Congress to protect first responders who contract coronavirus

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Georgia has joined a coalition of states that are pushing Congress to pass legislation that would extend the same federal benefits to first responders who are victims of coronavirus as those who are killed or injured in the line of duty.

Attorney General Chris Carr today joined a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general urging Congress to pass the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act. The 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. Current federal law would only allow survivors access to certain benefits if evidence is provided proving the deceased or permanently disabled first responder contracted COVID-19 while on duty.

“Our first responders are risking their lives each and every day to protect Georgians, and we need to have their backs,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “We believe this is a sensible solution to a very tragic problem that is happening and could continue to happen as a result of COVID-19. We will continue to keep our first responders in our thoughts and prayers.”

Why it Matters: In a letter sent to Congress today, Carr and 51 other state attorneys general urged quick passage of the SAFR Act. A letter sent to Congress today from the coalition of attorneys general sums up the intention of the act. According to the letter, “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. We have seen harrowing stories about how public safety officers have taken heroic actions to save the lives of others, knowing that they risked infection in doing so.”

The SAFR Act would establish a temporary presumption that officers contracted COVID-19 while on duty if diagnosed within 45 days of a first responder’s last shift. The legislation ensures families of officers and first responders lost while fighting the pandemic do not face unnecessary barriers to benefits already promised under existing federal law.

This legislation is sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. It recently passed the United States Senate and is currently being considered by the House of Representatives.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine co-sponsored the letter. The following attorneys general also joined the coalition: Alaska, American Samoa, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, 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.

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