New Jersey lawmakers urged to pass help for essential workers

(The Center Square) – The New Jersey AFL-CIO is urging lawmakers to pass a pair of bills they say would help protect essential workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Assembly Bill 3998 – and its counterpart, Senate Bill 2476 – would provide workers’ compensation cost of living adjustment (COLA) annually to the dependents of some essential workers who contracted COVID during their employment and later died from it.

Assembly Bill 4129 – and its counterpart, Senate Bill 2384 – would require health-care facilities to report to the Department of Health (DOH) the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths among health-care workers. According to a legislative fiscal estimate, the bill could increase DOH costs, but the exact amount is unclear.

“Now that all eyes are on the vaccine rollout, we can’t take our eyes off the ongoing need for nurses, health care professionals and other frontline workers to be protected from COVID-19 infection on the job,” the New Jersey Globe quoted New Jersey AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech as saying.

“The current surge in coronavirus infections and deaths requires a plentiful supply of personal protective equipment to provide lifesaving care for the thousands of union brothers and sisters who work overtime to care for the pandemic’s victims,” InsiderNJ quoted Wowkanech as saying.

The state Senate has passed their version of both bills, and Assembly committees have advanced both measures. However, it is not clear if the full Assembly will consider them as it winds down for the year.

Separately, on the workers’ compensation front, an Assembly committee recently approved legislation, Assembly Bill 508, that would exempt some small businesses with no employees from a requirement they obtain workers’ compensation insurance. The state Senate previously passed their version of the legislation.

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