Us chamber draft covid wc letter 5 1 20


May 01, 2020


The Honorable J.B. Pritzker
Governor of the State of Illinois
207 State House
Springfield, IL 62706

Dear Governor Pritzker:

The U.S. Chamb er of Commerce appreciates your efforts to address the many policy
issues surrounding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic , and in particular its effect on individuals
who remain at work in industries deemed essential . Among these issues, the use of workers’
compensation programs to compensate employ ees who become ill from the virus has emerged as
a consideration in some states, including Illinois, which recently has taken steps toward that end .

If there are any medical costs or disability due to COVID -19 and caused by the
workplace, whether temporar y or permanent, the current law allows an injured employee to
pursue a claim for benefits that will be adjudicated by the Illinois Workers ’ Compensation
Commission. Even w ithout expan ding the presumption, data from the worke rs' compensation
rating bureaus in California and New York indicate that COVID -19 claims could increas e the
cost of Illinois workers’ compensation to Illinois employers by billions of dollars.

The Illinois Workers’ Comp ensation Commission issued Emergency Commission Rule
9030.70 (effective April 16, 2020) that expanded coverage of workers’ compensation for
individuals impacted by the ongoing pandemic. The Emergency Rule went beyond law -
enforcement and health-care workers providing primary care by also cover ing corrections
officers, grocery-store clerks , and others deemed essential workers presumed to have contracted
the coronavirus at work. That Emergency Rule subsequently was repealed on April 27, 2020, and
a Committee w as formed to examine other possible actions that the Commission may take.
Before any further legislation, regulations, or guidance is crafted to create a presumption that a
worker has contracted the disease on the job, the U.S. Chamber respectfully offers the following
suggestions to assist in your state’s deliberation.

Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to provide
federal funding for emergency paid sick leave at businesses with less than 500 employees. The
law allows indiv iduals who are sick up to 80 hours of paid leave at their regular rate of pay up to
a maximum of $511 per day . Illinois has its own additional requirements with respect to how
sick leave may be used, while Cook County and the City of Chicago have explicit paid leave
requirements . To the extent that the state is still considering applying workers’ compensation
coverage for coronavirus -related reasons, whatever coverage may apply should be offset by the
paid leave provided under the FFCRA or applicable state or local law .

In addition, a presumption under workers’ compensation should be limited in its
application and not cover all industries deemed “essential .” For example, some states have
applied the presumption only to front line health care workers and first responders, or to other
state employees whose work requires the m to interact with the public. The Commonwealth of
Kentucky recently issued an executive order regarding workers’ comp ensation that is a bit
broader, but still limits the industries to which it will apply.

However, should the state choose to apply the presumption more broadly, the duration of
the presumption should not extend past the expiration of the state of emergenc y or other “stay at
home” requirements currently in place. When the day comes that businesses are free to resume
operations and individuals are free to socialize and operate more or less as usual, the risk of
exposure to the coronavirus will still be prese nt, but it will be essentially impossible to determine
whether a future exposure is truly occupational.

Workers who are home ill with the coronavirus are also eligible for federal Pandemic
Unemployment Assistance, which includes an extra $600 per week sup plement through July 31.
This is likely to be a far superior option for workers than taking a claim into the workers’
compensation system.

Finally, we strongly recommend that any federal paid leave benefits or unemployment
insurance benefits paid to the injured worker for COVID -19 be credited to the employer for any
workers’ compensation temporary total benefits to be paid to the injured worker. Kentucky’s
Department of Workers’ Claims Guidance to their Governor’s Executive order clarifies this for
Kentucky employers.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide some thoughts on the use of workers’
compensation to address the impact of the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic. The U.S.
Chamber recognizes the need to assist those facing employment challenges due to it, while at the
same time we encourage adopting the policies best suited to do so.


Glenn Spencer
Senior Vice President
Employment Policy Division

cc: M ichael J. Brennan
Chairman, Illinois Workers’
Compensation Commission

Us chamber draft covid wc letter 5 1 20