The House and Senate adopted recommendations from two committees of conference on legislation that would establish COVID-19 as a presumptive illness. As previously reported, SB 1375 (Saslaw) and HB 2207 (Jones) would establish a presumption that COVID-19 causing the death or disability of firefighters, EMS personnel, law-enforcement officers, and correctional officers and regional jail officers is an occupational disease compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act. The Senate originally stipulated a prospective presumption effective July 1, 2021, whereas the House originally stipulated a retroactive presumption eligible to March 2020. VACo urged the conferees to support the prospective version of the bill, which would have less fiscal impact to local governments than the estimated $15 million that would be felt if the retroactive presumption favored by the House were enacted.
VACo thanks everyone who responded to our action alert on this legislation to speak with the conferees: Senators Saslaw, Norment, Petersen, Barker and Newman and Delegates Jones, Hurst, and Kilgore.
The conference committee proposed amendments to both bills that included a retroactive presumption application, but only effective to September 1, 2020. This is not ideal, but the six months difference between the compromise date and the originally proposed date of March 12, 2020, will hopefully have less fiscal impact to local governments, though still more than a prospective eligibility date effective July 1, 2021. In explaining the reason for the compromise date, Senator Saslaw indicated that it would still provide retroactive coverage to eligible employees, but hopefully not have as much fiscal impact as would a March 12, 2020 retroactivity. Both the House and Senate passed the bills as amended by the conference committee unanimously, with one abstention in the House.
VACo is appreciative that the conferees did not extend retroactive coverage back to March 12, 2020, however any expansion of retroactive coverage without additional state or federal funding will not only have fiscal impact to local governments, but also likely lead to lengthy and contentious adjudication of workers’ compensation claims for eligible employees. This stems from the reinsurance contracts for risk insurance providers. Additional state or federal funding provided to local governments and risk insurers would likely negate any of these contract issues and facilitate adjudication of retroactive claims.
VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett