Legislation creating a rebuttable presumption that certain essential employees contracted coronavirus on the job, which shifts the response costs to New Jersey’s workers’ compensation system, is being opposed by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association today in the Senate.
Ultimately, bill S-2380 is not needed and will result in all businesses paying much higher premiums for workers’ compensation insurance, NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Ray Cantor said.
“The worker’s compensation system is not designed to handle claims for a worldwide pandemic – at least not without bringing large added costs to businesses,” Cantor said.
“We need to remember that many of our businesses are struggling to survive. Now is not the time to place even more costs on New Jersey businesses, especially when there are other options, such as using CARES Act monies given to the state for this purpose.”
A letter submitted to the Legislature last week by the New Jersey Business Coalition, featuring dozens of business and nonprofit groups including NJBIA, detailed how the legislation is not needed due to the availability of federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) funding for employees who are unable to work due to COVID-19 related reasons.
The coalition, however, also warned that those PUA payments would be reduced by the amount the employee received from workers’ compensation.
COVID-19 medical costs are also addressed by recent federal legislation. The new Health and Human Services portal is now covering any expenses for COVID-19 testing and treatment for anyone who lacks health insurance coverage.
The coalition explained that “because existing federal programs are already addressing the immediate needs of workers, we believe now is not the time to enact a program that would displace otherwise available federal dollars. This is especially true given the fact that Congress is currently negotiating an additional worker benefit package.”
“We do appreciate the need to ensure that front-line workers who have contracted COVID-19, and who have been negatively affected, receive the benefits that they need to make them whole,” Cantor added.
“But using workers’ compensation as a primary method to provide these benefits in not appropriate, and those added costs will be pushed back onto the business community, which is facing unprecedented challenges.”