If emergency responders are disabled or die because they get coronavirus, they and their families would get paid under a new bill floated by New York-area lawmakers Tuesday.
The measure, proposed by Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Max Rose (D-N.Y.) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), is modeled on legislation passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In addition to covering responders now, it would also benefit those whose injuries from 9/11 left them more vulnerable to Covid-19.
“Whether they are law enforcement officers, firefighters, or emergency medical technicians, public safety officers selflessly put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities,” said Nadler in a statement. “During this time of crisis, as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, public safety officers remain on call 24-7, which puts them at serious risk for exposure."
The bill, dubbed the Public Safety Officer Pandemic Response Act, would expand the Public Safety Officer's Benefits program, which already exists to compensate emergency service workers who are harmed in the line of duty.
“America’s public safety officers are out on the frontlines of this pandemic keeping America up and running as best they can,” said Pascrell. “Our heroes deserve the peace of mind that their loved ones will be eligible for support by the Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program."
It is not immediately clear how or when the bill could advance. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday that the Senate would not return until May 4 at the soonest, following a similar statement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Still, Nadler, as chairman for the Judiciary Committee, vowed he would push ahead.
"I will do everything in my power to ensure this becomes law. In the days and weeks ahead, it is imperative that we do all we can to limit exposure to COVID-19 for all essential workers who are helping our nation during this unprecedented time.”
The bill would mandate that a Covid-19 diagnosis be deemed a line-of-duty injury to be eligible for the PSOB program, unless the officer did not work during the relevant times; establish a Covid-19 disability standard based on whether an officer can no longer work as a safety officer, and make sure there is compensation for officers who were harmed from the 9/11 attacks and whose injuries left them vulnerable to a Covid-19 illness.
Close to half of the responders being treated in the World Trade Center Health Program have breathing-related illnesses or cancers that weaken their immune systems.