TRENTON, NJ – Leading state lawmakers are acting to ensure that ‘essential workers’ serving public needs during the COVID-19 crisis get the benefits and protections they deserve by expanding access to workers’ compensation and other benefits for front-line workers sickened by the coronavirus.
Authored by Senator Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex/Mercer) and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland), the measure would create a presumption that coronavirus disease infections contracted by essential employees who interact with the public are work-related for the purpose of determining employment benefits, including workers’ compensation.
“If we are willing to define some of the lowest-paid members of our workforce as essential and ask them to put themselves at a higher risk, we must ensure that we provide them with the workers compensation benefits they deserve,” said Greenstein. “In this unprecedented public health crisis, it is more important than ever that basic protections for those workers who interact with the public and increase their own risk of exposure should be maintained.”
The extended benefits would include health care workers and public safety workers. It also would cover workers in the public and private sectors.
“The men and women who are on the front lines protecting our health and safety and providing the vital services we all need during this crisis must be assured that they have basic worker protections and that they can get workers’ compensation if they fall ill to the coronavirus,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “We need to ensure that they can go to work with the knowledge that these benefits will be there if they need them.”
The bill passed the Senate on Thursday in a 27-12 vote and now goes before Governor Murphy for consideration.
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