Governor Signs Bill in Brooklyn Park, COVID-19 Presumption Extended for Front Line Workers
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz held a ceremonial signing of the first bill approved in this year’s legislative session at the Brooklyn Park Central Fire Station. The bill extends the presumption for workers compensation benefits to front line workers who contracted COVID-19.
The legislation applies to all health care workers who have direct contact with patients, as well as police, firefighters and other first responders. Child care workers are also included.
“This law was our 911 call for help,” said Scott Vadnais, president of the Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters Association, the organization that helped push for the legislation.
Walz stressed how the bill had significant bipartisan support. It passed the Senate 66-0 and the House 124-8.
“This is the way things should be done. It’s a smart piece of legislation that ensures the safety and security for our first responders,” said Walz.
The presumption for COVID-19 was initially approved at the start of the pandemic in 2020, but had expired at the end of December last year. Rep. Dan Wolgamott, DFL-St. Cloud, was chief author of the bill to extend the presumption in the House. Sen. Jeff Howe, R-Rockville, led efforts in the Senate.
‘Our work is not done’
Brooklyn Park Fire Chief John Cunningham says the legislation will help his department that previously dealt with significant cases of COVID during the omicron variant surge.
“For Brooklyn Park, we’ve seen COVID impact our ranks. We’re already a short-staffed organization. So when we lose someone that’s recovering and isolating at home because they contracted COVID-19 or a family member, that really impacts our workforce.”
House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, also says COVID had a great impact on the Coon Rapids Fire Department, with 11 of its 32 firefighters out in January due to coronavirus infections.
One unresolved issue is the bill does not cover the month of January, which is estimated to impact about 2,000 frontline workers who contracted COVID, including those Coon Rapids firefighters. Hortman is hopeful the House will pass retroactive legislation to address that gap.
“Our work is not done,” said Hortman. “We might be out of the omicron surge, we might on the downslide, but COVID is still very much with us. We have more work to do.”