League Seeks Special Fund for Public Safety and Health Employees With COVID-19

April 1, 2020

Addressing the challenges faced by public safety and health employees, who are on the front line in responding to the pandemic, is one of the League’s highest priorities.

Note: There is updated information on this topic. Read the latest article.

The League released an action alert on April 1, urging cities to contact their state legislators to ask for legislative support for the establishment of a special state fund to provide financial support for public safety and health employees who become infected with COVID-19.

Cities are also asked to contact the Office of Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan to request:

  1. Gov. Walz NOT issue an executive order making COVID-19 presumptively compensable under workers’ compensation; and
  2. Gov. Walz support efforts to implement a state fund to financially compensate public safety and health workers who contract COVID-19.

Due to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, legislators and the governor are working to address unforeseen policy and budgetary issues as quickly as possible. Addressing the challenges faced by public safety and health employees, who are on the front line in responding to the pandemic, is one of the League’s highest priorities.

Some legislators have proposed using the existing workers’ compensation system to indemnify public safety and health employees exposed to COVID-19. While the goal is admirable, the workers’ compensation system is not designed to respond to an international pandemic. The League suggests moving these essential workers into a more efficient and effective state-funded special compensation account to protect public safety and health employees from COVID-related financial implications.

Key Points:

  • We need to find ways to address medical, wage/income and benefit losses for public safety and health employees arising from COVID-19.
  • The state must make a significant financial commitment to these efforts.
  • The workers’ compensation system does not contemplate the implications of a global pandemic, and it is not the best tool for responding to the unique nature and number of potential claims that might result.
  • Using workers’ compensation to provide relief to employees who contract COVID-19 will have significant negative implications for the long-range financial and administrative stability of the system.
  • If the state places the responsibility of providing financial relief to these employees on the workers’ compensation system, costs will be passed down to property tax payers and will dramatically increase the cost of providing public safety services in Minnesota.

—Learn more about the proposed special state fund (pdf)

Bottom Line

The League is proud of the professional and selfless work being performed by public safety and health employees during this unprecedented time. We support the discussions happening about how to make sure our first responders are financially protected in the event they contract COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in our lifetime. Just as the state and federal governments have addressed other emerging issues pertaining to it, they should cast a wide eye to find resources to reimburse public safety and health employees for health, wage loss and survivor costs related to COVID-19 exposure.

Additional Background

Several legislators have expressed support for a bill that would expand workers’ compensation protections for police officers, firefighters, nurses and corrections officers who test positive for COVID-19. This bill (HF 4515/SF 4425) was introduced on March 16 but was not included in the package passed during the March 26 one-day session to advance a COVID relief measure, Chapter 71. Gov. Tim Walz has since stated publicly that he is considering implementing this legislation through an executive order.

For more information, contact LMCIT Administrator Dan Greensweig at dgreensweig@lmc.org.