The January 2022 legislative session will see lawmakers considering a proposal that could result in additional benefits for Florida first responders who die or suffer disabilities because of COVID-19.
Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff (R-DeLand) filed proposal HB 53 recently. The bill, if passed, would expand on a current law that covers first responders including law enforcement officers, paramedics, and firefighters.
The bill proposes that first responders who contract COVID-19 or other infectious diseases that cause disability or death would be “presumed to have a disability suffered in the line of duty”.
The diseases covered by the legislation would be conditions that are related to declared public health emergencies.
The presumption could lead to enhanced workers’ compensation benefits for first responders.
These workers are among those who have died during a surge in COVID-19 cases in Florida caused by the highly contagious Delta variant.
In a statement, Fetterhoff said the legislation was extremely important since first responders are exposed to COVID-19 every day while carrying out their duties.
She said both first responders and their families should be properly compensated.
The recommendation is based on an existing state law that provides similar coverage for diseases like hepatitis, meningitis, and tuberculosis.
President and CEO of the Florida Professional Firefighters, Wayne “Bernie” Bernoska, is supportive of the proposal.
He thanked Fetterhoff on behalf of the more than 27,000 firefighters and paramedics that make up the organization. Bernoska said Florida first responders “willingly face uncertain dangers” so it was comforting that someone was looking out for their health.
If you suffer injuries on the job, reach out to a Florida workers’ compensation attorney for advice. This will help to ensure you get the benefits you deserve.