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Rep. Maloney, Sen. Duckworth Reintroduce 9/11-Style Fund for Essential Workers

March, 2021

On February 25, 2021, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Senator Tammy Duckworth introduced legislation to create the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act. The fund, modeled after the highly successful September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), would provide compensation for injuries to individuals and their families who are deemed essential workers and required to leave their homes to provide services and who became sick or died of COVID-19. Congresswoman Maloney sponsored the VCF’s enabling legislation (the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act) and its subsequent reauthorizations. For more information about the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act or the VCF, please contact our VCF lawyers

Parallels Between 9/11 Rescue Workers and COVID-19 Essential Workers

Congresswoman Maloney likened essential workers to the responders of 9/11. “On September 11th, it was the firefighters and officers who ran into the burning buildings to save lives. Over the last year, as New York City and the country battled the COVID pandemic, it is hospital workers – nurses, doctors, EMS, janitorial staff, pharmacists, technicians – and all essential workers who have put so much on the line to keep us safe and healthy,” she stated. Like the VCF, the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act would allow for both personal injury claims and death claims. 

What Would the Program Do? 

The program would apply to “essential workers” who are defined in the bill as “any individual, employee, or contractor working for a person, business, nonprofit entity, or Federal, State, Tribal, territorial or local government that is determined, during the response to the COVID–19 pandemic, to be essential.” The “eligibility period” would be any time during which any government-issued COVID-19 emergency declaration was in effect. Like the VCF, it would be administered by a Special Master appointed by the Attorney General. 

Other key points include: 

  • Authorizing appropriated funds as needed for five years, with the fund closing permanently one fiscal year after the Special Master determines that no additional claims can be filed 
  • Creating a new website and office developed and administered by a Special Master to assist in the application process
  • Maximizing compensation for essential workers and their families by simplifying the application process. 

When determining eligibility, the Special Master would consider whether the claimant or decedent: 

  1. Was an essential worker during the eligibility period or was a family member of and resided with an essential worker during the eligibility period,
  2.  Expressed symptoms consistent with COVID-19,
  3. Suffered economic losses, and 
  4. Submits a single claim for compensation 

The losses it would cover are broad and include both economic losses and noneconomic losses. The legislation also prohibits the Special Master from considering negligence or any other theory of liability, meaning that a claimant could still be eligible for benefits even if their own behavior contributed to the losses. 

Contact Our VCF Lawyers for More Information About the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act and the VCF

For more information about the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act or the VCF, please contact the VCF lawyers at Pitta & Baione by using our online contact form or calling us at 212-658-1766.