Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody wants first responders who die or are permanently disabled as a result of COVID-19 to receive the same federal benefits as those who are killed or injured in the line of duty.
Moody is urging Congress to pass Senate Bill 3607, the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act. Current federal law would only allow access to certain benefits is evidence is provided proving the deceased or permanently disabled first responder contracted the virus while on duty.
“Law enforcement officers are risking their health and safety to keep us safe from crime amid the worst pandemic in our lifetime,” Moody said. “Many officers are being coughed at on purpose by criminals they encounter while protecting their communities. Tragically, some have contracted COVID-19 and succumbed to this deadly disease.”
No first responders locally have died from the virus, but some have come down with it.
In Charlotte County, two deputies have tested positive for COVID-19, one in law enforcement and one in corrections. Both are at home recovering while awaiting two negative tests, according to Spokesperson Claudette Bennett.
One Charlotte County firefighter has also tested positive, out of 52 employees tested so far.
In Punta Gorda, two firefighters who contracted the virus have since had two negative tests and are back to work, according to Punta Gorda Spokesperson Melissa Reichert.
North Port has not had any first responders test positive, said Spokesperson Josh Taylor, though a few have taken precautionary self-quarantines.
Moody said as the wife of a law enforcement officer, she knows the risks first responders face and how the pandemic has increased the dangers and stress of the job.
“We must do everything we can to protect our first responders and support their families should their service end in tragedy,” Moody said. “That is why I am asking Congress to pass the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act. This Act will show our law enforcement officers that we appreciate all they do to keep us safe and are grateful for their service in the face of this invisible enemy.”
Moody sponsored a letter to Congress signed by 51 other attorneys general.
It states in part, “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.”