St. Paul, MN - Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed House File 1203, which would extend the availability of workers’ compensation benefits for public safety and health care workers who have been sickened by or exposed to COVID-19, with the presumption that they contracted the virus in the line of duty. This builds upon the legislation passed into law last April. The bill passed on a broadly bipartisan vote of 102-28.
“Saying thanks to the heroes of this pandemic is not enough. We need to back up our words with action by passing HF 1203,” said Rep. Wolgamott (DFL - St. Cloud), author of the extension and original workers’ compensation legislation. “We’re not out of the woods yet, and we have a moral responsibility to ensure that these public safety, emergency, health care and childcare workers have financial peace if they contract COVID-19. These Minnesotans always have our backs - we need to continue to have theirs.”
The original legislation was scheduled to sunset on May 1, 2021. This bill simply extends that date to December 31, 2021. The law provides a presumption that if public safety or health care workers contract COVID-19, they did so during the course of their employment and are covered by workers’ compensation. Their own sick leave or personal time off benefits would not be used to make up for lost pay.
“It’s been easy to find the heroes in this pandemic — our health care workers and first responders have been on the front lines from the beginning. We need to continue to have their backs,” said Speaker Melissa Hortman. “While we hope we’re nearing the end of this pandemic, it’s important to extend this presumption to provide certainty and security.”
The COVID-19 workers’ compensation benefits are available to firefighters, police officers, paramedics, EMTs, correctional officers, nurses, health care providers, assistive employees in health care, and childcare providers who are required to provide childcare for the children of first responders and health care workers under the Governor’s Executive Orders.
“Instead of rushing tax cuts to big corporations that don’t need them, government can choose to have the backs of people risking their health and safety for us – like Minnesota’s firefighters and paramedics,” said Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “First responders have been pleading for an extension of worker’s compensation, and today House Democrats delivered.”
The Minnesota Senate has yet to act on the legislation. A video recording of today’s House floor debate can be found on the House Public Information YouTube page.