Albany Times Union: Labor advocates call for workers compensation to cover COVID-19 exposure

ALBANY — As thousands of people on the front lines of the pandemic have been exposed to the coronavirus, including some succumbing to the illness, labor groups are calling on New York to guarantee workers compensation benefits for those exposed to COVID-19 on the job.

The virus has sickened thousands of essential workers across the state, from law enforcement and health care staff to transportation and grocery store employees. The highest concentration of infections has occurred in downstate areas where COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, has ravaged communities and killed many workers immersed in the battle against the virus.

While efforts on the state and federal level consist of creating a COVID-19 heroes compensation fund to provide added benefits to essential workers amid the public health crisis, employee advocates say a variety of benefits should be utilized to compensate those exposed to the virus at work.

“There is no perfect solution. All the options combined help bring some semblance of justice to the victims,” said attorney Matthew Baione, a partner at a  New York City law firm. “There is also precedent in the form of reexamining workplace rules. It’s not something you can give money to and walk away from.”

Baione helped establish the 9/11 victims compensation fund, which was used as the framework to establish the COVID-19 heroes fund.

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