NJ Governor Phil Murphy has now signed legislation enacting a cost of living adjustment [COLA] increase for workers' compensation benefits. The law is limited to dependents of public safety employee who have been killed in a workplace accident.
The law provides, from January 1, 2020 forward, an annual COLA in the weekly WC benefit rate for the surviving dependents of any public safety worker who died from a workplace injury after December 31, 1979. A public safety worker is an individual who is employed by or a member of a paid, partially-paid, or volunteer fire or police unit, including a first aid or rescue squad.
The annual COLA will equal the percentage increase in the annual Statewide average weekly wages earned by all employees covered by the “unemployment compensation law.” For supplemental WC benefits paid for workplace injuries that occurred after December 31, 1979 but before January 1, 2020, the calculation will be performed relative to the Statewide average weekly wages in effect in the year of the injury. However, the calculation applies only to benefits paid beginning on January 1, 2020 without any retroactive benefit payment.
COLA benefits are to be reduced by the original amount of any Social Security benefits a surviving dependent receives (but not the amount of any Social Security disability benefits and any subsequent cost-of-living increases in Social Security benefits) or Black Lung benefits.
In addition, COLA benefits will not be paid to any individual who elects not to receive Social Security benefits for which the individual is eligible, or in any case in which the COLA would be less than $5 per week.
COLA benefits are to be paid from the SIF starting on January 1, 2020. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development calculates the SIF assessment for each calendar year so that projected resources in the fund equal 125 percent of expected benefit payments in the upcoming year plus 100 percent of the projected cost of administration. The surcharge is levied on all employers that are WC and employer’s liability insurance policyholders or that are self-insured, except for reinsurance or retrocessional transactions, and the State or any local units thereof which acts as a self-insured employer.
Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman firstname.lastname@example.org has been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.