Dear COBA Members;
With all of the nonsense going on in Albany of late, one good thing has come to fruition that COBA and our partners in labor have worked extremely hard for.
The State Legislature has passed a Bill and the Governor signed into law, legislation that will provide a Death Benefit for the beneficiaries of all Public Employees in New York who die of COVID-19. This is similar to legislation that took years to pass after the Terrorist Attacks of 9/11.
This Death Benefit will provide one half of the employees Final Average Salary to their eligible Beneficiaries which shall include, a Surviving Spouse who would receive this benefit for life or until they remarry; or, Surviving Children until they reach age 25.
This is not a presumption Law. Instead, the law lists a number of statutory requirements that a beneficiary must establish in order to be eligible for benefits. Once the beneficiary establishes these requirements the law dictates that they shall be granted the benefit. This means that the law can't be disputed by the Pension System. Once the beneficiary establishes the necessary requirements, the Retirement System must pay the benefit.
The Requirements for this benefit are as follows:
1.) The deceased member must have reported to work on or after March 1st, 2020.
2.) The deceased member must have contracted COVID-19 within 45 days of the date they last worked for the employer.
3.) The Beneficiary must establish that the deceased member had COVID-19 in 1 of 2 ways, either through laboratory testing indicating a positive test; or a licensed Physician, Physician's Assistant or Nurse Practitioner diagnosed the member as having COVID-19. This diagnosis may come before or after death.
4.) The Date of Death must be between March 1st, 2020 and December 31st, 2020. NOTE: This means the laws coverage ends on 12/31/20. If God forbid a second wave of COVID-19 appears or if the disease remains a constant presence, we will have to amend the law to extend its coverage.
5.) A member's Death Certificate must state COVID-19 as the cause of death, or the Physician, Physician's Assistant or Nurse Practitioner must attest that within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, COVID-19 was the cause of death.
While this law is a great step toward protecting our Members, this legislation does not address Workers Compensation Claims, GML 207-c Claims or Disability Pension Claims for anyone who may be left disabled by COVID-19. Those issues will be addressed in the next legislative session. Those will be much larger hurdles to climb because there is an enormous Fiscal Note attached to enacting such legislation. One step at a time.
Stay safe. Stay Healthy.
Always in Unity;
Brian Sullivan, COBA President