At least one Florida lawmaker wants to provide first responders with workers compensation coverage for exposure to COVID-19 while on the job.
DeLand Republican Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff filed a bill (HB 53) on Friday that would grant workers compensation to qualifying first responders when they’re exposed to an infectious disease, like COVID-19, during a public health emergency. The proposal presumes first responders contracted the disease in the line of duty if they weren’t exposed outside of work.
“This legislation is extremely important for our first responders who are being exposed every day to COVID-19 while conducting their duties,” Fetterhoff said in a statement. “We need to ensure that our police officers, firefighters, and EMTs as well as their families have the proper compensation coverage should they become infected while serving our communities.”
The proposal is based on existing Florida law that provides similar coverage for other infectious diseases, such as hepatitis, meningitis and tuberculosis. For the case of COVID-19, the bill calls for a 14-day exposure-free window.
Florida Professional Firefighters President and CEO Wayne “Bernie” Bernoska is supporting the measure.
“On behalf of the over 27,000 firefighters and paramedics that make up the Florida Professional Firefighters, I’d like to personally thank Representative Fetterhoff for bringing forward legislation that will provide protections to our members if they are unexpectedly harmed while performing their duties on the front lines of this pandemic,” Bernoska said.
“Every day first responders throughout our great state willingly face uncertain dangers, so it’s comforting to know that we still have leaders in Tallahassee like Representative Fetterhoff looking out for the health and safety of these brave men and women. Thank you for having our backs.”
At least 29 law enforcement officers have died of COVID-19 in Florida, Axios noted Monday. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the Florida Highway Patrol announced two deaths among their ranks Saturday, FHP Trooper Sean Hryc and Compliance Investigator Ernest “Ernie” Brown.
Committee meetings for the 2022 Legislative Session will begin late next month. The 60-day Legislative Session will start Jan. 11.
The bill is Fetterhoff’s first for the upcoming Session. Last Session, the two-term representative sponsored a bill, now law, expanding cancer coverage to state agency firefighters. That measure also protects sexual harassment victims and protects Floridians from fraud.
Fetterhoff’s latest bill does not yet have a Senate sponsor.