Minnesota Legislature extends COVID-19 presumption for workers’ compensation – StarTribune.com

Minnesota Legislature extends COVID-19 presumption for workers' compensation - StarTribune.com

Minnesota’s divided government struck its first deal of the 2022 legislative session, extending workers’ compensation for public safety and health care staff who are at highest risk of contracting COVID-19 on the job.

Lawmakers in both chambers passed the proposal in the first week of session, and Gov. Tim Walz signed the bill into law on Friday, extending the benefits for roughly 183,000 workers until January 2023.

“We’re still grappling with COVID-19, and we need to continue to have the backs of the Minnesotans who have ours,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park. “I’m pleased we are moving quickly to provide them with the certainty and security they need as they go to work every day.”

Initially passed at the start of the pandemic, the law extends a presumption that certain workers who test positive for COVID-19 caught the virus at work, making them eligible for workers’ compensation. The presumption applies to doctors, nurses, firefighters, paramedics, police, long-term care workers, home health care workers, correctional officers and child care providers.

More than 22,000 workers have received compensation under the presumption, totaling just under $20 million. But the original provision expired at the end of December, leaving workers uncovered if they contracted the virus.

“This is an important bill for workers in our state, and it’s only fitting that this bill was the first of the year to be passed off the Senate Floor,” said Sen. Jeff Howe, R-Rockville, who sponsored the legislation in the Senate. “Many workers throughout our state have continued showing up to work, despite the unique challenges presented by COVID.”

The legislation is not retroactive, meaning it doesn’t cover workers who contracted COVID in January. Since the law lapsed in December, 2,000 frontline workers have contracted COVID-19, according to House Democrats.

Senate DFLers said they plan to introduce legislation that would apply the presumption retroactively so workers who tested positive in January won’t be excluded.

During a debate on the Senate floor Thursday, Democrats also said there should be a larger debate on whether teachers should be included in the list of people who can get workers’ compensation.

“This was a bill that was agreed to in the beginning of the pandemic,” said Senate Minority Leader Melisa López Franzen, DFL-Edina. “Of course, all of us have learned that the pandemic has evolved and that we should also evolve and adapt with it.”

The new Legislature can take up the matter again early next year if they need to further extend the presumption for workers.

Staff writer Emma Nelson contributed to this report.

This content was originally published here.

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