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N.J. Senate passes COVID dependent bill

By Angela Childers

The dependents of essential workers in New Jersey who die from COVID-19 in the course of employment may receive enhanced benefits if a bill that passed the state’s Senate becomes law.

The New Jersey Senate passed bipartisan bill S.B. 2476 in a 38-1 vote Monday. The legislation would provide the dependents of essential workers who died after March 1, 2020, due to the contraction of coronavirus on the job with enhanced weekly supplemental benefits from the state’s Second Injury Fund.

Essential employees include fire, police and other first responders; medical and other health care service providers; public-facing workers providing transportation or financial services; those involved in the production, preparation, storage, sale and distribution of essential goods; and other employees deemed essential in the state of emergency.

The supplemental benefits are intended to mirror cost-of-living-adjustment benefits in place for dependents of public safety workers killed in the line of duty. The additional benefits would be paid during the period in which the dependents receive the initially awarded weekly benefits and would be reduced accordingly for dependents receiving Federal Old-Age, Survivors’ and Disability Insurance Act benefits.

If signed into law, the legislation would take effect immediately.

The bill has moved to the state’s Assembly. A similar bill, A.B. 3998, was introduced to early May and has been in the Assembly Labor Committee.