AG Schmidt speaks to lawmakers on first responder benefits and COVID-19

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt accepts the Kelley-Wyman Outstanding Attorney General Award from Montana Attorney General Tim Fox at a dinner Tuesday in Washington, D.C. (Photo submitted)
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Attorney General Derek Schmidt wrote lawmakers asking them to enact a temporary law allowing families of first responders who die of COVID-19 to be eligible for federal benefits.

Schmidt spoke to Congress, Senate and House leadership that first responders disabled due to COVID-19 should not face unnecessary barriers.

“Kansas first responders have taken heroic actions to save the lives of others,” says Schmidt. “They’ve answered the call to service, knowing full well they face potential exposure to COVID-19 in the process. In return, it is our duty to ensure their family members are provided for in the tragic and hopefully unlikely circumstance they give their lives as a result of this virus.”

Schmidt and 51 other state and territory attorneys general sent letters urging congress to pass the Safeguarding America’s First Responders (SAFR) Act. The legislation would establish a temporary presumption that any first responder that contracted COVID-19 on duty if diagnosed within 45 days of their last shift.

The Act recently passed the Senate and is being considered by the House of Representatives currently.

The current legislature allows death benefits to survivors of police officers and first responders who lose their life in the line of duty or resulting from a work-related event. Survivors can currently only access benefits if proof is provided showing the deceased or permanently disabled contracted the deadly virus while on duty.

The attorneys general argue that determining where and when someone contracted COVID-19 in the middle of a global pandemic creates unique challenges deserving of unique responses.

Schmidt plans to continue to fight for first responders and emergency personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic.