SWEENEY/MADDEN BILL WOULD PROVIDE WORKERS’ COMP COLA IN CASES OF DEATH OR DISABILITY
TRENTON – A Senate committee today endorsed legislation authored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Fred Madden, the chairman of the Senate Labor Committee, that would provide cost-of-living increases for permanently disabled workers and survivors who receive workers’ compensation.
This bill, S-1967, would provide an annual cost of living adjustment in the weekly workers’ compensation benefit rate for any worker who has become totally and permanently disabled due to a workplace injury, or to the surviving dependents of workers who died as a result of a workplace injury.
“Disabled workers and survivors of those whose lives were lost because of workplace accidents deserve to have cost-of-living increases that allow them to keep pace with growing expenses,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland. “It would be unfair if they can’t afford to meet their regular expenses to support themselves and their families with paychecks that fall behind expenses.”
The adjustment will mirror the COLA already in place for benefits arising from an injury or from death that occurred before 1980. Current law requires annual adjustments to be paid only for cases before January 1, 1980. The COLA would increase the amount of workers’ compensation benefits so the new amount equals the same percent of the maximum benefit as it did when originally awarded.
“The way the current law is written, workers’ comp recipients can be cut off from COLA increases if the accident occurred before 1980, which is unfair and too arbitrary,” said Senator Madden, D-Camden/Gloucester. “This bill will update and improve the law so that the previous timetable is used.”
The bill would make no change in the current workers’ compensation law which provide for the reduction of certain portions of workers’ compensation benefits by the amount of Social Security disability benefits paid.
The COLA would be funded entirely through the Second Injury Fund, which is financed through an annual assessment levied on all employers who are workers’ compensation and employer’s liability insurance policyholders, or who are self-insured employers under the workers’ compensation law. The COLA would not be provided to any individual who qualified for benefits under the Federal Old Age, Survivors and Disability Act but does not receive them.
The bill was approved by the Senate Labor Committee.