September 1, 2020

Laws to Enhance Benefits for Service Members, First Responders, Veterans and to Restore National Parks and Public Lands

A bill to amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to extend lease protections for servicemembers under stop movement orders in response to a local, national, or global emergency, and for other purposes (S 3637) – This bill extends the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to protect service members who were previously issued orders to change duty stations but had those orders rescinded because of the pandemic. A stop movement order may leave them with a housing and/or car lease in two different locations. This extension allows families who are unable to relocate due to pandemic-related travel restrictions to be released without penalty from their leases. It is retroactive to March 1, 2020. The bill was introduced by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) on May 6. It was passed by the Senate in June, the House in July, and was signed by the President on Aug. 14.

Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act of 2020 (S 3607) – This bill was introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on May 5. The bill extends death and disability benefits under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program (PSOB) to public safety officers (e.g., law enforcement officers) and survivors of public safety officers who die or become injured as a result of COVID-19. The bill classifies COVID-19 or related complications suffered by a public safety officer as a personal injury sustained in the line of duty. The Act was passed in the Senate in May and in the House in July. It was signed into law on Aug. 14.

Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act of 2019 (HR 886) – Introduced by Rep. Charlie Christ (D-FL) on Jan. 30, 2019, this legislation directs the Department of Justice to establish a Veterans Treatment Court Program to provide grants and technical assistance for state, local and tribal governments to develop and maintain veterans’ treatment courts. Treatment courts are designed to assist justice-involved vets with treatment needs such as substance abuse, mental health, and other issues unique to active service. The Act was enacted after being signed by the President on Aug. 8.

Ryan Kules and Paul Benne Specially Adaptive Housing Improvement Act of 2019 (HR 3504) – This bill is designed to amend Title 38 of the United States Code that provides for improvements to the specially adapted housing and educational assistance programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is designed to help eligible disabled veterans purchase adaptive homes or upgrade existing homes to meet their specific needs for daily living activities. The bill was introduced by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) on June 26, 2019. It was passed in the House in July 2019; in the Senate in March 2020, and was signed into law by the President on Aug. 8.

Great American Outdoors Act (HR 1957) – This Act was initially sponsored by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) on March 28, 2019. This legislation establishes the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, which is designed to support deferred maintenance projects on federal lands for fiscal years 2021 to 2025. The bill makes funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund permanent and allocates money equal to 50 percent of energy development revenues from oil, gas, coal, or alternative or renewable energy development on federal lands and waters. The bill establishes reporting procedures for all associated projects and mandates that deposited amounts must not exceed $1.9 billion for any fiscal year. The bill was signed into law by the President on Aug. 4.

Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act (S 2163) – Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced this legislation on July 18, 2019. It is designed to establish a Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys within the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Office to conduct a systematic study of the conditions affecting black men and boys. The Act was passed by the Senate in June, the House in July, and was signed into law by the President on Aug. 14.