Legislation (A3504) has been introduced to establish the Health Care Workers COVID-19 Supplemental Benefits Program in the Division of Workers' Compensation.
This legislation aims to assist healthcare workers whose public service has rendered them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 by alleviating long-term economic hardships due to COVID-19. The support provided by the bill is especially important in cases where healthcare workers become unable to work for extended periods because of persistent, long-term symptoms following recovery from acute COVID-19, colloquially known as "Long COVID."
SUPPLEMENTAL BENEFITS FOR HEALTHCARE WORKERS
The bill provides supplemental benefits to healthcare workers determined to be eligible for workers’ compensation because they have contracted COVID-19 "in the course of employment." The supplemental benefits are provided when an eligible healthcare worker qualifies for regular workers’ compensation equal to 70 percent of the weekly wages received at the time of injury, subject to the stated minimum and maximum compensation levels.
DURATION 180 WEEKS
The supplemental benefits do not commence until all benefits equal to the healthcare worker’s full salary have ended. Supplemental benefits are provided if the healthcare worker cannot work due to COVID-19, but not for more than 180 weeks.
The amount of the supplemental benefit is such that the sum of the weekly regular workers’ compensation plus the weekly supplemental benefit equals 100percent of the health care worker’s weekly wage, except that that sum shall not exceed $1,800, with similar adjustments made to compensation paid to volunteer health care workers.
The bill directs the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development to issue annual reports of available information regarding the number of claims by healthcare workers entitled to the supplemental benefits, the total amount of benefits awarded, the total anticipated and the accrued costs of the benefits, and an estimate of what portion of the funds appropriated for the program will be needed to pay all of the benefits, and a request to the Governor and the Legislature for any additional appropriation which may be required to make the payments.
NOT TO BE CONSIDERED FOR SURCHARGE
The supplemental benefits are not to be considered in determining the annual surcharge levied on policyholders and self-insured employers for the Second Injury Fund or the experience ratings of individual employers.
The bill establishes the Health Care Workers COVID-19 Supplemental Benefits Program Advisory Council, consisting of twelve Division of Workers' Compensation members, to advise the division and provide program administration recommendations. The advisory council will be dissolved, and the annual reports by both the council and the commissioner will cease upon a determination that all eligible healthcare workers have received all supplemental benefits to which they are entitled.
The bill appropriates $30,000,000 from the Health Care Workers COVID-19 Supplemental Benefits Program from the General Fund to the Second Injury Fund to provide supplemental benefits and pay the advisory council any necessary expenses.