Capitol Contact ALERT! COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Presumption Bills in Conference – Call Conferees to Support Prospective Version of the Bill

February 25, 2021

SB 1375 (Saslaw) as passed by the Senate, establishes a presumption that COVID-19, causing the death or disability of firefighters, EMS personnel, law-enforcement officers, and correctional officers, is an occupational disease compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act. The Senate language stipulates a prospective presumption effective July 1, 2021. The House passed substitute language for the bill that was rejected by the Senate to conform SB 1375 to HB 2207 (Jones), which as passed by the House, establishes a retroactive presumption eligibility to March 2020. In order to reconcile the differences between the chambers, SB 1375 was sent to a committee of conference consisting of Senators Saslaw, Norment, and Petersen and Delegates Jones, Hurst, and Kilgore. HB 2207 was also sent to a committee of conference consisting of Senators Saslaw, Newman, and Barker and Delegates Jones, Hurst, and Kilgore.

SB 1375 in the form that passed the Senate maintains a prospective presumption. We have concerns that a retroactive expansion of workers’ compensation presumptions for COVID-19 in addition to other recent changes in the benefits program could result in substantial fiscal impacts to the state and local governments at a time in which they are struggling to provide essential and expanded services in the midst of declining revenues and increased constituent needs.

Please contact the conferees to urge them to support the version of SB 1375 that passed the Senate unanimously on February 4.

KEY POINTS

  • According to actuarial analysis from the Virginia Association of Counties Group Insurance Self-Insurance Risk Pool (VACoRP), a retroactive presumption (as proposed by the House) would result in a fiscal impact of approximately $15 million for the period of March 2020 to June 30, 2021.
  • SB 1375, in the form that passed the Senate would still likely impose some fiscal impact to local governments, but it would be a fraction of the cost of including the retroactivity component that is proposed by the House.
  • Local governments and risk insurance providers have not budgeted for an expansion of liability to cover additional presumptions related to COVID-19, especially not for a retroactive expansion of eligibility.
  • A retroactive application of liability contains the most liability costs to local governments as well as posing potential constitutional complications to existing risk insurance reinsurance contracts. This will delay adjudication of workers’ compensation claims by impacted employees should the legislation be enacted.
  • While CARES Act funds are eligible to be used by local governments to offset increased costs to workers’ compensation insurance from COVID-19, many localities have spent all or most of their federal coronavirus relief act funding to address the myriad other responsibilities and challenges of facing the pandemic.
  • As additional state or federal funding has not been provided to offset the fiscal impact of the bill, VACo is grateful for language passed by the Senate that is prospective in nature and does not have a retroactive coverage dating back to March 2020.

KEY CONTACTS

Senator Saslaw, Senator Norment, Senator Petersen, Senator Newman, Senator Barker

Delegate Jones, Delegate Hurst, Delegate Kilgore

VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett

 

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