A new law will provide death benefits to the families of city and state government frontline workers who died from COVID-19 without the families having to prove their loved ones caught the virus while on the job.
“The legislation that became law will guarantee survivors an automatic death benefit without them having to jump through hoops to prove their spouse caught the coronavirus while at work,” said President Joe Colangelo. “They will also have the option of two different payouts that will mitigate their financial concerns, which is the least we can do for them in light of all they have sacrificed.”
Beneficiaries would be automatically entitled to the accidental death benefit, paid through the members’ pension, as long as the other criteria are met. The new law covers workers on the job anytime from March 1, who contracted COVID-19 within 45 days of reporting to work, and then died on or before Dec. 31, 2020, either due to COVID-19, or had COVID-19 as a contributing factor in the member’s death.
In determining whether Accidental Death Benefits should be awarded, a deceased member or retiree must have had a positive lab test for COVID-19 within 45 days of reporting to work, or have been diagnosed with COVID-19 from a qualified medical provider, either before or after the member’s or retiree’s death. The beneficiary would also have to show that COVID-19 was the cause or contributing factor in the death as documented by a death certificate or by a qualified health care provider.
Both the Ordinary and Accidental death benefit options are based on a member’s retirement system. In the case of Local 246, that is NYCERS. Other factors in determining payouts include a member’s tier, years on the job, and salary. With the new law, the designated beneficiary can choose whether to take the one-time, lump sum payout under the ordinary death benefit, or receive monthly payouts for life according to the formula of the accidental death benefit. Colangelo said it will be up survivors’ beneficiaries to meet with NYCERS to determine the best option for them.