As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, New York has begun to institute changes in workers’ compensation benefits. This past Memorial Day, New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, made an announcement that revealed that families of public employees who work the frontline and die of Covid-19 would be allowed to receive benefits that are normally available for workers who die as a result of on-the-job injuries.
Governor Cuomo explained the reason for this change to the state’s workers’ compensation laws: Because of the extremely hard work of those who work the front lines perform to deliver essential services to everyone, it’s important to do more than simply say “thank you.” The governor stressed the need to protect the families of these valuable and valued employees. The surviving family members of those working for the New York State and New York City alike who pass away from Covid-19 would be able to recover death benefits as a result of their tragic loss. Around 300 employees of the New York City area have already died from the virus.
Coronavirus and Workers’ Compensation Benefits
On May 30, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed bill S.8427/A.10528 into law. This brand new law would ensure that the families of employees of New York counties, the City and state who worked on the front lines during the coronavirus pandemic had the legal right to receive death benefits through workers’ compensation rather than just those paid through local and state pension funds. This new law adds to New York’s retirement and Social Security law with the brand new section 509-a, Covid-19 benefit.
The frontline workers included under the new law include the following types of employees:
• Emergency responders
• Police officers
• Public healthcare providers
• Transit workers
Any and all of the employees who performed their hard work on or after March 1 of this year and who contracted the virus within 45 days are covered under the new law. The family members of those workers who fell ill and subsequently died from Covid-19 are legally entitled to receive half of the pension of their loved one for life. Surviving family members of firefighters or police officers are entitled to the full pensions of their loved ones. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the survivors of frontline workers were only entitled to those benefits for around three years.
Benefits May Extend to Workers with Covid-19
The changes in workers’ compensation laws in New York by Governor Cuomo may only be the beginning in the age of the coronavirus pandemic. There are several additional pending bills on the state and federal levels that lawmakers are considering as well. If these bills pass into law, benefits may extend to workers with Covid-19. They include the following:
• AB 10401(S08266) would allow exposure to Covid-19 to be considered an occupational disease and give workers in New York who contract the virus, or their survivors, to receive workers’ compensation benefits due to disability or death.
• AB 10172(SB8041-A) would be added to existing laws to provide testing, medical exams, and treatment to volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers exposed to the coronavirus due to their work during emergencies. They would also be eligible for partial or total disability benefits or their families would be entitled to death benefits.
• AB 10391(SB8117-A) would allow for the presumption that New York law enforcement officers, probation officers, parole officers and other emergency responders who contract Covid-19 did so while performing their regular work duties.
• HR 6656 is a federal bill that, if passed, would allow TSA employees diagnosed with the virus over a certain period of time to be eligible for federal workers’ compensation benefits.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, essential workers have put their health and lives on the line to perform services for the community. New York was the United States’ epicenter for the pandemic early on. It was only a matter of when, not if, New York employees would contract the virus while diligently serving the community.
As a result of those serious risks, the above bills are essential in ensuring that workers who become infected and their families have the right to receive workers’ compensation benefits without any hassle.
If you live in New York and have tragically lost your loved one to Covid-19, you need Rella & Associates on your side. A workers compensation lawyer in New York will listen to your story. A New York workers’ compensation lawyer will fight to protect your rights to get you the benefits you deserve. If you need to discuss your loved one’s situation with a workers’ compensation lawyer in New York, contact NY workers compensation attorneys Rella & Associates at your earliest convenience.