WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) joined Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) to introduce legislation to increase the death benefits for families of fallen law enforcement officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty. The First Responders Survivors Support Act will increase the Public Safety Officers’ Benefit (PSOB) death and disability benefit to $500,000, fix bureaucratic problems with the benefits system, increase the education benefit to $2,000 per month and identify ways to strengthen, streamline and increase access to the PSOB education benefit. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Gary Peters (D-MI) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) are also cosponsors of the legislation. A bipartisan companion bill is led in the House of Representatives by Congressman Raul Ruiz (D-CA).
"We should honor the memories of fallen first responders by making sure each generation going forward has a better life," Klobuchar said. "This legislation will strengthen access to benefits for families of the first responders who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Our nation must continue to support these families and honor our fallen heroes.”
“Our nation can do much more to support the families of first responders who lost their life protecting us from harm,” Duckworth said. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation with Dr. Ruiz in honor of Commander Bauer and other fallen heroes, like Chicago Firefighter Juan Bucio and Police Officer Samuel Jimenez. It will cut red tape and make it easier for these families to pay off their debts, invest in education and make mortgage payments.”
“The PSOB and PSOEA programs provide peace of mind for the men and women who serve our communities as law enforcement and other public safety officers. Because of these programs, they can perform their duties with the confidence that their families will be taken care of in the event they are called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice. However, the benefits have not kept up with the times and many survivor families, especially those with children, have found themselves facing financial hardships in addition to the pain of losing their loved one. This bill cannot alleviate the grief of such a devastating loss, but it can relieve any financial pressure the family may encounter as they rebuild their lives,” said Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents more than 345,000 law enforcement officers in every region of the country.
This legislation has been endorsed by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), Congressional Fire Services Institute, Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA), National Association of Police Officers (NAPO), National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF), Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), and Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA).
As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Klobuchar has been a leader in pushing to expand and improve emergency communications infrastructure. Klobuchar joined Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) to introduce the Next-Generation 9-1-1 Act of 2017 to boost federal support for a rapid and effective transition to Next Generation 9-1-1 across the country. Earlier this month, Klobuchar and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced bipartisan legislation to fund behavioral health crisis response training for law enforcement. The Behavioral Health Crisis Response Improvements Act will support state and local law enforcement agencies with training for officers who respond to cases involving people with a mental illness or substance use disorder. Klobuchar and Murkowski also lead bipartisan legislation to provide vital support to local law enforcement. The COPS Reauthorization would reauthorize the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, which awards grants to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies throughout the United States so they can hire new officers and provide needed training and technical assistance to community leaders and local law enforcement at all levels.