RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Delegate Jay Jones’ bill, which would allow first responders to receive a presumption for COVID-19 sickness under the state’s workers compensation system, is headed to Governor Ralph Northam’s desk.
HB 2077 passed both the House and the Senate this week. The bill establishes a presumption that in the event COVID-19 causes the death or disability of firefighters, EMS, law enforcement, and correctional officers, it is considered an occupational disease compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
“Our first responders have been on the front-lines of the pandemic for a year and they deserve the ability to make a workers compensation claim for COVID-19 if they were exposed on the job. Firefighters, law enforcement, and EMS providers have come into contact with COVID-19 far too often and we have an obligation to protect them,” said Jones.
Jones’ office says that the Code of Virginia outlines worker’s compensation protections for first responders for “ordinary diseases,” but first responders have been unable to receive protections for COVID-19.
A statement released says that the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, the largest in the state, has seen more than 126 positive COVID-19 cases. Of those cases, only 14 have had Virginia-funded workers’ compensation benefits.
“The current worker’s protections outlined in the Code of Virginia are inadequate and this is a simple but incredibly necessary fix that protects those who have sacrificed so much to keep the rest of us safe. I’d like to offer my sincerest thanks to former Governor Terry McAuliffe for his efforts to secure the retroactive provision in this legislation,” Jones continued.