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Biden signs 3 bipartisan bills that expand benefits for first responders, law enforcement

President Joe Biden
Posted at 8:07 AM, Nov 18, 2021

President Joe Biden on Thursday signed several bipartisan bills into law that expand benefits for first responders injured in the line of duty and offer more counseling resources to police officers.

Biden signed the "Protecting America's First Responders Act of 2021," the "Confidentiality Opportunities for Peer Support Counseling Act," and the "Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act" into law at a White House ceremony.

"When you look at what our communities need and what our law enforcement is being asked to do, it's going to require more resources, not fewer resources," Biden said.

The "Protecting America's First Responders Act of 2021" aims to expand disability and death benefits for first responders who are injured in the line of duty. It was co-sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-New York.

The "COPS Counseling Act" will expand the peer support and counseling programs that law enforcement agencies must provide to law enforcement officers. That bill was initially co-sponsored by Grassley and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-New Mexico.

“Every day our nation's police officers answer the call and confront scenes that can take a toll on them and leave them traumatized," Biden said Thursday prior to signing the bill. "You know, it's not fundamentally different than folks in the battlefield...we need to help them recover from their invisible wounds that their work can affect.”

Finally, the "Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act," co-sponsored initially by Grassley, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, expands the Department of Justice's capabilities to prosecute people accused of killing U.S. law enforcement agents abroad.

That bill is named for two Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers who were killed while investigating drug cartels in Mexico.

Prior to the signings, Biden also announced that the Department of Justice had launched a new community policing services initiative that would fund hundreds of new programs.

"These grants, which total nearly $140 million, will go to 182 law enforcement agencies," Biden said. "A lot of them will fund over 1,000 new law enforcement positions and fund other initiatives that will build legitimacy and trust in our communities to address gun violence and other violent crimes and combat hate and domestic extremism."

Thursday's bill signings marked the second signing ceremony at the White House this week. On Monday, Biden signed into law an enormous $1 trillion infrastructure spending bill that will provide federal funding to repair roads, bridges and electricity transmission lines. It will also expand access to high-speed internet and build electric vehicle charging stations across the country.