Opinion

COVID-19: Resist expanding worker’s comp benefits

Photo illustration of a workers' compensation insurance form. (Image: Lane V. Erickson, via Shutterstock)

During this time of unprecedented disruption, it is easy for some to take advantage of the chaos and push their own agenda.

Our elected officials need to lead and protect us all against any overreach that will harm our state’s economic recovery — including an overreach of workers’ compensation benefits that would decimate small businesses and local municipalities already struggling to survive, without providing commensurate value beyond the existing system of benefits provided to workers.

Gov. Newsom’s order creates an unnecessarily broad presumption for workers’ comp benefits, extending beyond public sector…

In two months, the state of California has gone from enjoying a $21 billion surplus to now grappling with more than a $54 billion budget deficit and growing.  That is a $75 billion dollar budget swing.  The state’s future deficit is expected to be billions more over the next three to four years.

Cities, counties, school districts and employers will face similar deficits and staggering expenses which will reduce critical services.  As we navigate these monumental challenges while reopening California’s economy, it is incumbent on policymakers and the business community to work together to balance the needs of society.

As essential front-line workers leave their homes every day to deliver goods, provide services to patients and keep other basic societal needs afloat, the protection of these workers should be of the highest priority.

Business leaders, public entities and insurers are steadfastly committed to delivering timely workers compensation benefits and protections during this extraordinary time. Workers should rest assured that if they contract COVID-19 while doing their job, the existing system is already set up to provide them benefits.

Contrary to this existing system of benefits, Gov, Newsom recently signed an Executive Order giving workers a presumption for COVID-19 coverage.

Under current law, workers who contract COVID-19 in the course of their employment are already able to file claims and receive benefits.  This order creates an unnecessarily broad presumption for workers’ comp benefits, extending beyond public sector police and fire personnel to cover every worker in the state.

Should the Legislature approve even more expansive coverage for workers’ comp, it would put an even larger burden on public entities like cities, counties and schools.

The presumption means that all cases of COVID-19 are automatically considered to be work related – and entitled to workers’ comp benefits – even if there’s no evidence of a work connection.

The additional price tag for these claims – including cases where the illness that came from somewhere other than work – could reach billions of dollars and will be paid by local governments, schools and employers of all sizes.

Following this Executive Order, the Legislature is considering a further expansion of these benefits beyond the existing system, which has been working and providing benefits to workers for more than a century.

Should the Legislature approve even more expansive coverage for workers’ comp, it would put an even larger burden on public entities like cities, counties and schools who are already struggling with the massive revenue loss and mounting new costs.  It is vital to our state’s economic recovery that employers and public entities are not forced to pay for COVID-19 that occurs outside of the workplace.

Julian Canete is president and CEO of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce representing the interests of over 800,000 Hispanic business owners in California. The CHCC is the premier and largest regional ethnic business organization in the nation that promotes the economic growth and development of Hispanic entrepreneurs and California’s Emerging Businesses.

Editor’s Note: Julian Canete is president and CEO of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce representing the interests of over 800,000 Hispanic business owners in California.


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