Citing 9/11 Victims Fund, Lawmakers Eye U.S. Compensation Pool For COVID-19 Workers

By | May 18, 2020

A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers last week unveiled a plan to compensate essential workers who fall sick or die from COVID-19. The lawmakers are modeling their 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. They were 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 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 at least 13 states have taken action that would require workers’ compensation insurers to pay benefits to first responders, health care workers and other essential workers submitting COVID-19 workers’ comp claims without first 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.

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The program would cover future business interruption losses and be like the government-supported commercial terrorism program initiated after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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 became sick through contact with the essential worker would be eligible to file a claim.

In a media statement, Maloney, who lead 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.”

“In this fight against the coronavirus, it is the first responders, retail workers, transit workers, grocery store clerks, delivery workers, janitorial staff, sanitation workers, mail carriers, hospitality workers, and federal, state and local employees who are on the frontlines, walking in to the fire every day as they risk their health to make sure we are safe, fed, and healthy.”

The move comes as medical teams around the globe are just starting to track the long-term health of survivors of COVID-19 amid concerns the health effects could last for years. Some recovered patients report breathlessness, fatigue and body pain months after first becoming infected. Studies in Hong Kong and China show that survivors deal with with poorer functioning in their lungs, heart and liver.

Meanwhile, the insurance industry is promoting the idea of an insurance plan backed by the federal government that would help businesses that in the future suffer losses from a pandemic. Insurers want the pandemic policies to be backed by the U.S. government, similar the government-supported commercial terrorism products after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Insurers are facing multiple lawsuits, political pressure and criticism from customers with business interruption policies over not covering their recent financial hardships despite the fact these policies either exclude or do not specifically cover a global pandemic.

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