Legislation to make “essential employees” who develop COVID-19 presumptively eligible for workers’ compensation was voted out of the Senate Labor Committee on Tuesday, May 12th and then out of the Senate on Thursday, May 14. The vote was 27-11, with two Republicans voting for it.
Advocates for S2380 argued that the legislation was needed to provide income replacement for the predominantly low-income workers currently staffing essential retail operations during the COVID pandemic.
NJCJI has been part of a business-community coalition that has pointed to federal benefits that provide comparable income replacement through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program created by the CARES Act. We have also pointed out that HHS is operating a program to cover any uninsured COVID testing or treatment expenses. And we have noted that given current budget difficulties, we are all better off when we take advantage of available federal funding, rather than have COVID expenses fall on the New Jersey workers’ compensation system.
And of course, to the extent there is concern for the underlying validity of the presumption itself, recent survey data out of New York is raising interesting questions about whether frontline workers are actually at greater risk of contracting the virus than the population at large.
The legislation has nevertheless now moved to the Assembly, which is currently next scheduled to hold a voting session June 15th. Please contact Alida if you would like to discuss this issue further.