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Lawmakers advance bills to compensate first responders hit by COVID-19

Virginia lawmakers have passed bills that allow certain first responders to file workers’ compensation benefits for being disabled from COVID-19, but still need to reach agreement on some differences.

The measures would make COVID-19 an occupational disease for firefighters, emergency medical services personnel and law enforcement or correctional officers and allow these individuals to file for workers’ compensation benefits.

The workers’ dependents also would be eligible for benefits if the workers die from COVID-19. Occupational diseases arise out of and in the course of employment, according to state law, and include hepatitis, meningococcal meningitis, tuberculosis or HIV.

Senate Bill 1375, sponsored by Sen. Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and House Bill 2207, introduced by Del. Jay Jones (D-Norfolk), had mostly unanimous support.

The main difference is that the House bill would extend the compensation to regional jail officers. The Senate also rejected an amendment by the ...

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