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Congress Passes Legislation to Expand PSOB Benefits

On November 4, the U.S. Senate passed the Protecting America’s First Responders Act (S. 1511). The legislation would make a number of changes to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program: 

  • Extend eligibility for the PSOB program to public safety officers that die or become disabled in the line of duty from COVID-19 until December 31, 2023 or the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency, whichever comes first. 
  • It would allow “disabled officers” to perform sedentary work involving ordinary or simple tasks, involving minimal duties; or perform work for therapeutic purposes or with special accommodations and still receive the PSOB disability award. 

  • Allow new categories of public safety officers to be eligible for the PSOB program, including trainees; fire police; and public safety officers acting as “Good Samaritans” outside of their jurisdictions. 

  • Direct the DOJ to provide retroactive educational assistance to the children of dead or disabled officers who qualified for the PSOB educational benefit but failed to receive a payout in time due to processing delays. 

  • Provide the opportunity for responders at the World Trade Center to apply for PSOB disability benefits under the newly expanded definition of disability. 

The bill passed the House of Representatives on October 27. The bill now awaits signature into law by President Biden.  

“I thank Congress for passing the Protecting America’s First Responders Act. This legislation will protect the families of firefighters, police officers, EMS personnel, volunteer fire police, firefighter candidates, and others that die in the line of duty while serving the public. In addition, it will continue to ensure that the federal government will look after the families of first responders that die from the horrible COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chief Kenneth W. Stuebing, President and Board Chair of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. “I thank Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. and Senator Charles Grassley for leading the effort to pass this important legislation.” 

Ken LaSala is the IAFC’s Director of Government Relations & Policy. 

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