The Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey (CCSNJ) would like to voice our opposition to S-2476 (Singleton), which provides supplemental benefit payments to the dependents of essential employees that died in the course of employment due to the contraction of COVID-19. While the CCSNJ is sympathetic to the intent of the legislation, we believe S-2476 (Singleton) would create a significant financial impact on businesses and inequality within the workers compensation benefits system.
The bill, as currently written, would provide a cost of living adjustment (COLA) to the spouse or dependent’s workers’ compensation death benefit if an essential employee dies from the coronavirus in the course of employment. This would create a new, separate class of beneficiaries receiving enhanced benefits, creating inequity in the current worker’s compensation system.
Specifically, the CCSNJ is concerned that the definition of “essential employee” is overly broad, encompassing public safety workers, first responders, anyone involved in providing medical and healthcare services, and anyone who performs functions which involve physical proximity to members of the public and are deemed essential. The CCSNJ would like to respectfully request that essential employee be limited to those with frontline duties and responsibilities that require interaction with the general public.
Additionally, S-2476 (Singleton) would apply to dependents of an “essential employee, for a death that occurred after March 1, 2020 due to the contraction of COVID-19 in the course of employment. Given the open timeframe of this legislation, especially seeing there is disparity in the timing of when certain businesses were deemed essential, as well as when others could begin reopening, determining contraction was employment related is extremely difficult.
New Jersey’s business community supports their employees and want nothing more than their safety and the safety of their family. However, this legislation puts an unfair burden on business and will add strain and confusion to the state’s workers compensation system.
For these reasons the CCSNJ respectfully urges you to vote “no” on S-2476 (Singleton).