House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler is proposing to expand a federal program to provide benefits to police, firefighters and other public safety officers who are permanently disabled by coronavirus — or death benefits to their families if they die from complications connected to the virus.
The New York Democrat’s bill, introduced Tuesday with Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and Max Rose (D-N.Y.), would expand a federal program that provides similar death or disability benefits to officers fallen or injured in the line of duty to include those public safety officials on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis.
“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,” Nadler said in a statement, adding, “As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I will do everything in my power to ensure this becomes law.”
The measure complements a parallel to a similar expansion of the program that Nadler authored after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which provided death and disability benefits for those public safety officials killed or permanently injured during their response to the attacks. The new measure would account for those who suffered long-term conditions related to the Sept. 11 attacks and have remained on duty, only to have their conditions exacerbated by Covid-19.
Under the new measure, any officer who contracts coronavirus while on duty or up to 45 days before going off-duty could become eligible for benefits if their injury results in being “permanently prevented from performing any gainful work as a public safety officer.”
The Public Safety Officer Benefit program has provided billions of dollars to officers or their surviving family members since it began delivering payments in 1976. New York and New Jersey public safety officers have been particularly hard-hit by the coronavirus crisis. The NYPD alone has seen thousands of infections among uniformed and civilian officers, with more than 20 deaths as of Tuesday.