The Potluck

Lawmakers to expand workers’ compensation rules to cover COVID-19 infections

By: - April 6, 2020 12:37 pm

Healthcare workers screen a patient for COVID-19 at a drive-through coronavirus testing site on March 18 in Virginia. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Minnesota lawmakers are poised to re-convene Tuesday to authorize a reworking of workers’ compensation rules to allow first responders and front-line health care workers to file claims if they fall sick with COVID-19 while on the job. 

Legislative leaders late on Sunday announced they had reached a deal to bring the bill to the House and Senate. With Tuesday’s vote, the action is expected to quell the push by advocates who were dismayed the policy change wasn’t included when the Legislature approved a $330 million COVID-19 emergency package late last month. 

Under the proposed legislation, a range of occupations, including nurses, police officers and personal care attendants who receive lab confirmation of COVID-19 would be eligible for presumptive workers’ compensation. The Minnesota Hospital Association had previously disagreed with language they called overly broad

Chris Parsons, St. Paul fire captain and president of the Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters, previously said first-responders are responding to emergency calls during a shortage of personal protection equipment. 

“We need to have that peace of mind that if we become sick and disabled, the state of Minnesota will have our backs,” Parson said, adding that the peak of COVID-19 cases hasn’t yet happened. “We haven’t even seen the worst of it. We’re not even close to seeing the worst of it.” 

Child care workers of first responders and healthcare workers are also eligible for the workers’ compensation. Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order to provide child care assistance to essential workers.

State Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said in a statement Monday that labor and business groups on the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council had reached an agreement.

“I applaud the efforts of those representing the public employee unions and business groups for coming together on a presumptive workers’ compensation agreement,” said Miller, who helped broker the agreement. 

“We hope it’s not needed, but it is vitally important for these heroes on the front lines to know that this policy is in place to help protect their health and safety during this difficult and uncertain time,” he added. 

Lawmakers are also expected to recess starting Wednesday through Monday, April 13 for Passover/Easter break.

 

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.

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