Legislation that proposes adding COVID-19 to the list of illnesses presumed to be incurred in the course of employment for multiple categories of first responders, health care workers, and school board employees is potentially headed towards a positive outcome for local governments. On September 3, SB 5066 (Saslaw) was considered by the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee who ultimately declined to act on the bill before the Committee moves on to consider House legislation and the budget. This effectively limits the bill’s chances of passage.
As previously reported, the bill would add COVID-19 to the list of illnesses presumed to be incurred in the course of employment for multiple categories of first responders, health care workers, and school board employees. The legislation has potentially significant negative fiscal impact to local governments in the tens of millions of dollars. These considerations had been raised by VACo’s advocacy efforts and were mentioned in the Committee debate.
The House version of this legislation, HB 5028 (Jones), passed the House on September 4 on a vote of 61-37 before being heard by the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, who voted unanimously to report and refer the bill to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee on September 16th. Commerce and Labor Committee members noted the substantial fiscal impacts of the legislation and it is hoped that Senate Finance and Appropriations will treat HB 5028 in a similar manner to SB 5066.
According to the fiscal impact statement from the Commission on Local Government, “A majority of localities…noted the that the bill would increase workers compensation, Line of Duty Act (LODA), and volunteer accident insurance premiums. Localities also noted that the unfunded mandate imposed by the provisions of the bill would be financially detrimental, would open the door to more virus type ailments being added to workers’ compensation defined illnesses, which could potentially increase litigation.”
VACo strongly urges that passage of any legislation that expands presumptions to include COVID-19 be done only if in concert with additional state funding assistance to local governments to offset additional costs through risk insurance.
VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett