A New Jersey Assembly panel advanced a bill that would help first responders and their families financially in the event that they are disabled or injured by COVID-19.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Local law enforcement officers, state troopers, firefighters, and emergency medical responders enrolled in one of the three retirement systems associated with these professions are eligible for accidental disability benefits if they sustain a permanent and total disability resulting from a traumatic event that occurred on the job.
Similarly, their named beneficiaries are eligible for accidental death benefits if they lose their lives in the line of duty.
Bill A-3945 would extend eligibility benefits to first responders who become disabled or die as a result of their exposure to COVID-19, as long as their job involved interacting with the public or supervising other personnel who interacted with the public during the COVID-19 crisis.
Proof that the first responder “more likely than not” contracted the disease in the line of duty would no longer be required and the measure would retroactively cover applicable circumstances that took place between March 9th, 2020 and the end date of the emergency.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee advanced the legislation, sponsored by Assembly members Carol Murphy (D-7), Annette Chaparro, and Raj Mukherji (both D-33), on Monday.
“Our first responders are courageously putting their own lives on the line to keep our communities safe during this crisis … So many of our firefighters, police, and EMS responders have already been infected with COVID-19, and not all of them survived their encounter with this deadly virus,” the three state lawmakers said in a joint statement.
“After tragically losing a family member, grieving families should not be expected to somehow prove their loved one most likely contracted the virus on the job. It is our duty to honor their loved one’s sacrifice by making sure these families receive the benefits they need without placing the burden of proof on their shoulders.”
Last week, the Mukherji, Chaparro, and Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-37) sponsored a bill to provide a $100 million statewide rent relief fund.
The Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee okayed that legislation Thursday.