A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers unveiled a plan on Thursday to compensate essential workers who fall sick of die from COVID-19, modeling the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act after the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-NY, Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, Peter King, R-NY, and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-IL, who previously joined forces on the 9/11 compensation fund, introduced the measure during a digital news conference, joined by representatives of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, Uniformed Firefighters Association, National Rural Letter Carriers Association, and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers.
According to a press release from Rep. Maloney, the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act would set up a fund for essential workers and their families across all industries, providing financial assistance to help with medical costs, loss of employment, loss of business, replacement services and burial costs.
The announcement comes after individual state actions in at least 13 states that require workers compensation insurers to allow first responders, health care workers and other essential workers submitting COVID-19 workers comp claims to receive benefits without having to prove they were exposed to the virus during the course of their employment. The scope of the occupations covered under such presumptions vary by state.
The proposed federal funding act would:
- Create a new website and office developed and administered by a Special Master to assist in the application process.
- Maximize compensation for essential workers and their families by simplifying the application process to get those affected back on their feet.
- Authorize appropriated funds as needed for five years, with the fund permanently closing one fiscal year after the Special Master determines that no additional claims can be filed.
According to the media statement, the compensation application would allow claimants to provide information regarding the extent of their loss for consideration, and eligible individuals would receive compensation no later than 20 days after approval.
Family members who share homes with essential workers and become sick through contact with the essential worker would be eligible to file a claim.
In a media statement, Rep. Maloney, who led the battle to permanently fund the 9/11 Victims Fund last year, said: “On September 11th, it was the firefighters and officers who ran into the burning buildings to save lives. Today, it is hospital workers—nurses, doctors, EMS, janitorial staff, pharmacists, technicians and all essential workers. We owe them more than applause at 7 p.m.”