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Bipartisan group of Kentucky lawmakers aim to extend temporary disability for COVID-19 exposure with prefiled bill

Republican Rep. John Blanton is one of the sponsors of BR 496.
Kentucky Legislative Resource Commission
Republican Rep. John Blanton is one of the sponsors of BR 496.

A bipartisan group of Kentucky lawmakers have prefiled a bill that would extend temporary disability benefits from occupational exposure to COVID-19 through January 2023 for the upcoming legislative session.

If passed, BR 496 would presume that “frontline workers” that contract COVID-19 did so through their work and entitle them to workers’ compensation for time spent in quarantine — regardless of vaccination status. Employers would handle a coronavirus-related claim as they would any other.

Eligible workers would include healthcare workers, first responders, corrections officers, military personnel, activated members of the National Guard, domestic violence shelter workers, child advocacy workers, rape crisis center staff, Department for Community Based Services workers, grocery workers, postal service workers and childcare workers.

These workers were initially guaranteed disability benefits for COVID-19 exposure in an executive order issued by Gov. Andy Beshear in April 2020, but Republican Rep. John Blanton and the other cosponsors want to ensure the benefits won’t lapse with said executive order.

“We thought that we were beginning to see [the light at the end of the tunnel] earlier in the year,” Blanton said. “Then, we got hit with this Delta variant, and we still don’t know what other variant could arise from this. We just want to give enough time to cover that.”

Blanton said the end date of 2023 was chosen in the hope that the pandemic will be less pronounced or that more treatment options will be available by then, noting that he and the cosponsors can reintroduce the bill and extend it as necessary in future sessions.

Also introduced this year are two prefiled bills unrelated to BR 496 — BR 353 and BR 432 — which would establish workers' compensation liability for workers who are required by their employers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and subsequently develop adverse reactions.

Side effects resulting from the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines are typically mild, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though some serious complications have been documented in extremely rare cases.

Dustin Wilcox is a television production student at Murray State University. He graduated from Hopkinsville High School in 2019.
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