Illinois governor signs COVID bill for essential workers

Legislation signed into law in Illinois on Friday will provide worker compensation benefits for front-line and essential workers who contract COVID-19 on the job under certain conditions.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed H.B. 2455, which will provide death benefits for first responders who were presumably infected with COVID-19 on duty and also revises state code to expand unemployment benefits and enhance sick pay and leave for workers who contract the virus.

The legislation creates a rebuttable presumption for essential workers, including first responders, who presumably contracted the virus during statewide shutdowns. Under the bill, employers can rebut claims under certain conditions, including if they can demonstrate the workplace was following current public health guidelines for two weeks prior to when the employee claims they contracted the virus; can provide proof that the employee was exposed by another source outside of the workplace; or the employee was working from home for at least 14 days prior to the injury claim.

The bill also states that first responders, including police officers and firefighter who die after testing positive for COVID-19 or its antibodies are entitled to death benefits. However, the virus must have been determined to be contracted between March 9 — the first day of Illinois’ governor-mandated stay-at-home order — and Dec. 31, 2020. The law states that the date of contraction is either the date of diagnosis with COVID-19 or the date that the first responder was unable to work due to symptoms that were later diagnosed as related to COVID-19 infection, whichever occurred first.

Addressing death benefits for police officers and firefighters who die after testing positive for the virus or its antibodies, the bill states the first responder must have contracted the virus between March 9 and Dec. 31, 2020.

The law also explicitly states that no COVID-19 claims may be used to increase or affect an employer’s workers compensation insurance experience rating or modification, but may be used in determining overall state loss costs.

The law took effect immediately after being signed into law.

This article was first published by Business Insurance.

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