Families of New York public employees who die of coronavirus will be eligible for ‘line-of-duty’ benefits

May 29, 2020
In The News

ALBANY — New York lawmakers passed legislation late Thursday ensuring families of public employees who die of coronavirus while working on the front lines of the pandemic will receive “line-of-duty” death benefits.

The measure establishes a presumption that public employees who die of COVID-19 contracted the virus while on the job, making families and beneficiaries entitled to receive death benefits and a worker’s pension.

“These families have suffered a horrific loss and should not have to wait in limbo to get the benefits they are owed,” said Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Brooklyn), who sponsored the bill. “I am glad we have been able to move swiftly to get a small measure of justice for the workers we have lost.”

The Senate passed the bill shortly before midnight and the Assembly followed suit early Friday morning.

Both Gov. Cuomo, who will have to sign off on the legislation, and Mayor de Blasio backed the union approved measure, which applies to cops, firefighters, medics, healthcare workers, teachers, transit employees and others.

So far, at least 277 municipal workers have died in the city since the Big Apple became the epicenter of the outbreak.

“I’m thankful that the Senate and Assembly were able to work together on such an important issue and take this positive step forward for the working men and women of New York State,” said Assemblyman Peter Abbate (D-Brooklyn), who sponsored the bill in his chamber.

To be eligible for the death benefit, workers must have contracted the virus within 45 days of reporting to work in person, have a confirmed positive laboratory test or be diagnosed before or after death by a licensed health care practitioner.

“While we cannot put a price on the appreciation and respect we have for our front-line heroes, this bill will help the families of those workers cope with the financial aftermath of such a devastating loss," said Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO. "We can never fully repay the debt we owe to our heroes, but this is one small step in providing the security their families deserve.”

On the federal level, there have been discussions about a benefits package being set up that would cover both public and private sector workers who were considered essential and died during the outbreak.

The Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act, supported by Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn B. Maloney, both Manhattan Democrats, and Peter King (R-L.I.) would be modeled on the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.