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Extension of COVID-19 presumption included in approved bill

For workers' compensation purposes, the presumption that first responders, law enforcement and health care providers with COVID-19 caught the disease on the job could be extended until Jan. 1, 2022.

Beginning this August, health care providers who bill injured workers for treatment in violation of Minnesota's workers' compensation law could face penalties and, by October, disability benefits for some low-wage employees who cannot work for a period because of a job-related injury could increase.

Those are among the potential outcomes of HF2253, sponsored by Rep. Mike Sundin (DFL-Esko), a bill that encompasses changes to the state's workers' compensation law recommended by the Workers' Compensation Advisory Council.

The 12-person council, which includes six members representing organized labor and six representing Minnesota businesses, addresses issues and makes recommendations pertaining to workers' compensation.

On Tuesday, the bill was unanimously approved, as amended, by the House Labor, Industry, Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee and referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Its companion, SF2143, is sponsored by Sen. Paul Utke (R-Park Rapids) and awaits action by the Senate Labor and Industry Policy Committee.

To become official, the council’s recommendations need majority support from both the six members representing organized labor and the six representing businesses, said Roslyn Robertson, commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry.

She said the recommendations in the bill received unanimous support.

Since April 2020, first responders, law enforcement and health care providers with COVID-19 have been presumed to have caught it on the job.

That provision is scheduled to expire May 1, though a bill scheduled for a vote by the full House on Thursday would extend the sunset date to May 1, 2022.

The proposal to increase benefits for some temporarily and totally disabled workers would keep payments more consistent with wages, Department of Labor and Industry leaders say.

It would have a minimal effect on workers' compensation premiums, the department says.

The bill would also bar the issuance of subpoenas to department employees who answer workers' compensation-related questions. Another provision would give the department more time to complete an annual report on workers' compensation claims.

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