Federal lawmakers are tossing around a plan to create a fund to compensate essential workers who fall sick or die from COVID-19. The proposed fund would be modeled after the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund that was used to disburse over $7 billion of government money to victims of the 9/11/01 attacks and their families.
The recently proposed Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act would create a fund to help with medical costs, lessen the blow of lost jobs and business losses, and to help with burial costs of first responders, healthcare workers and other essential workers harmed by the coronavirus pandemic.
More specifically, the Act, if passed, would establish a fund with federal money for all essential workers, personnel, and their families, across all industries, that were required to leave their homes to perform their services and became ill or died as a result of COVID-19. Like the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, a Special Master would be appointed to administer the Fund, including the application process, with the goal of getting essential workers or their families back on their feet quickly. The Act provides that federal funds would be appropriated for five years, as needed. Moreover, sickened family members living in the homes of essential workers may also be covered by the Fund.
The announcement of the legislation follows mounting pressure on state workers compensation insurers to pay benefits to essential workers submitting workers’ compensation claims related to COVID-19 without requiring workers to prove they were exposed to the virus at work. Employers and their insurance companies are not happy about footing the bill for the mounting workers’ compensation claims.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal says, in promoting the Act, “[f]ront-line workers continue to put their lives on the line, and they and their families deserve more than platitudes; they’ve earned full, fair compensation for the risks they’ve taken on our behalf.” This is a sentiment that most Americans would agree with and will likely gain support of lawmakers from both parties. However, the already proposed Heroes Act serving, in part, to give hazard pay to essential workers touched by COVID-19 and a Senate Majority Leader who has called for a halt of new legislation may serve as roadblocks to the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act.