Florida will start processing workers’ compensation claims from public servants who contract the novel coronavirus on the job.
Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis ordered the Division of Risk Management on Monday to review those claims submitted by “frontline state employees” who are required to interact with potentially infected individuals. The division has received 36 claims for COVID-19 since the virus was first reported in Florida.
“If we’re going to ask our public servants to fight this pandemic on our behalf, they have to know we’ve got their backs if they get sick,” Patronis, who doubles as the State Fire Marshal, said in a statement.
Law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, correctional officers, health care workers, child safety investigators and Florida National Guard members will be eligible for compensation. However, agencies can opt out of the compensation program and the state would not have to pay the compensation if it can prove the worker contracted the virus while not performing their duties.
It can take weeks for people to recover from COVID-19.
“Workers’ compensation insurance was developed to provide our public servants a way to cover a portion of their lost wages and medical costs, so their families don’t have to worry as much,” Patronis said. “Providing this important coverage to our men and women on the front line is just the right thing to do.”
The order will last indefinitely until rescinded by Patronis or Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Because even people who have merely been exposed to the virus have to self isolate for two weeks, the state is preparing for a shortage of first responders. The Governor signed an executive order Monday allowing law enforcement and health care workers who retired in the past six months to reenter the workforce, normally impermissible.
Additionally, the Florida League of Cities recently announced the Florida Municipal Insurance Trust will cover first responders’ COVID-19 claims.
Patronis has called for labs to prioritize firefighters with coronavirus tests with a quick turnaround. And firefighters, he has said, could help health care and logistics matters when state resources get stretched thin.