The Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act for Essential Workers Introduced
On Thursday, a bipartisan group of federal legislators unveiled the “Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act,” which would establish a compensation fund for essential workers modeled after the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. The sponsors of the bill–Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Representative Peter King (R-NY), and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)–announced during a video conference their intent to introduce the legislation. The names of several of the sponsors are very familiar to the 9/11 community for their work on the Never Forget the Heroes Act. All three representatives have recently worked together to pass the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act in 2019.
The lawmakers were joined by Gerard Fitzgerald, President of the Uniformed Firefighters’ Association; Jake Lemonda, President of the Uniformed Fire Officers’ Association; Ronnie Stutts, President of National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association (NRLCA); and Anthony Simon, General Chairman of the Transportation Division of SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers. The labor leaders represent tens of thousands of essential workers who would be covered by the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act.
If passed, the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act would establish a compensation fund for all essential workers that were required to leave their homes to perform services and were diagnosed with and/or died as a result of COVID-19. Compensation would be available to family member-cohabitants of essential workers who contracted the virus as well. The fund would also provide financial assistance to essential workers affected by COVID-19 related to medical costs, loss of employment, loss of business, replacement services, and burial costs.
The Pandemic Heroes Act’s sponsors predicted a path to victory that would be much easier than the years’ long battle to pass the original James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act in 2010. Specifically, they cited the pushback they received from legislators denying that 9/11 toxins exposure caused illnesses, and the fact that 9/11 was originally viewed as a “New York issue.” Conversely, COVID-19 is an already recognized illness which impacts all 50 states.
Pitta & Baione has been tracking talk of a compensation fund for COVID-19 victims and/or essential workers during this pandemic, which would be modeled after the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (9/11 VCF). We have been asked by clients if we would handle such claims- would we be “COVID-19 compensation claim lawyers” or “coronavirus compensation claim lawyers” or “essential worker claim lawyers”? We have also been asked to comment in press articles about this issue. Our answer has been the same – if that would best serve our clients then yes, of course. We have also been preparing files for clients to utilize in the event a COVID-19 related compensation fund comes to fruition. Now, the concept is a lot closer to reality…as the question may now surround whether we would be “pandemic heroes compensation lawyers.” Only time will tell…