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The New Jersey Business & Industry Association is opposing 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 and essential businesses paying premiums for that insurance.

Bill S-2380 is being heard in the Senate Labor Committee today.

“We 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,” NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Ray Cantor said. “However, using workers’ compensation as a primary method to provide these benefits will create costs that will overwhelm a system not designed to handle claims for a worldwide pandemic.

“Further, those costs will be pushed back onto the business community, which is obviously facing unprecedented challenges. Many of these businesses are struggling to survive,” Cantor said.

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 explains 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.”

“Businesses too are suffering during this pandemic and many are struggling to survive,” Cantor added. “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.”