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The New Jersey Business & Industry Association is opposing legislation today that creates a presumption that certain essential employees contracted COVID-19 on the job and shifts the response costs onto New Jersey’s workers compensation system.

NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Ray Cantor submitted testimony to the Assembly Appropriations Committee that explained this process would increase premiums and ultimately result in significant financial loss on employers, many of which are struggling due to the pandemic.

Cantor also added that federal CARES Act money is already allocated to cover the costs of essential workers who contract COVID-19. He said if the bill becomes law, the Legislature would leave federal dollars on the table and force the employer community to shoulder the increase.

“NJBIA recognizes the intent of the legislation to ensure that our essential employees who become ill receive the benefits they need,” Cantor said. “We believe that the goal can be met without overwhelming and bankrupting the workers compensation system.

“This can be done by making a few reasonable amendments to better tailor this legislation to those who may actually deserve the presumption established in the legislation.”

Among those needed amendments, Cantor said, is a modification of the definition of an essential employee to better reflect the elevated risk they had while working through the pandemic.

“Not every employee who was deemed essential in the Governor’s executive orders actually had an elevated risk of contracting the virus,” Cantor said. “Those who had contact with people who had the virus or interacted with the public were at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19 than an employee who was in the back office and who had no such contacts.

“This legislation should be tailored to reflect this reality and to ensure that we expend our resources as necessary and only as needed.”

Cantor also encouraged a change in the bill’s language that limits the extent of the term a presumption to a time when stay-at-home orders were in place.

“It is one thing to presume that an employee contracted the virus at work when their only movements are from home to work and back again,” Cantor said. “But it is illogical to apply the same presumption when that employee is going to the beach, to restaurants, visiting friends, and largely engaging people in a wide manner of ways outside of their employment.”

To read Cantor’s full testimony, click here.