AFFI LEGISLATIVE ALERT
Governor JB Pritzker signs HB2455
During the General Assembly’s three-day emergency session, the AFFI legislative team added all COVID-19 related illnesses to the list of rebuttable presumptions covered under the Workers Compensation Act. This includes a waiver of the five-year employment threshold for our newest members.
Description: An agreed bill as a result of negotiations between business and labor to address the unemployment insurance system in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Amends the Unemployment Insurance Act to allow the Illinois Department of Employment Security to capture 100% federal funding for extended benefits, continue the suspension of the waiting week, make non-instructional educational staff eligible for unemployment benefits during the summer months and academic vacation weeks, and amend existing rest stops for 2022. Amends the Workers’ Compensation Act to allow the Illinois Works Review Panel to hold its initial meeting no later than 45 days after the effective date, allow payments of duty death benefits to surviving spouses of Chicago police and firefighters who die from contracting COVID-19 between March 2020 and December 2020, revise eligibility for workers compensation to include disease or injury from COVID-19 for first responders or frontline workers, and make changes to unemployment payments.
When the call comes in about the next emergency, we are in immediate motion. From structure fires to vehicle accidents to medical emergencies, our firefighters and emergency medical technicians are often the first on the scene.
The coronavirus crisis doesn’t change our members’ desire to put their lives on the line to help others. It’s what we take an oath to do. But it does make everyone think twice as they head to the scene.
What if this patient is unconscious or there is a language barrier? How will we know if we are exposing ourselves and our families to this deadly virus?
In Chicago and other Illinois communities, there is a debate about providing first responders notice if a residential address we are responding to has someone who is COVID-19-positive. The reason is obvious: If we know the disease is present when we respond, we can prepare and wear extra protective gear.
Our association has urged its more than 15,000 members in 224 communities to treat each patient as having COVID-19, to protect themselves. But we agree with Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul: Each community has the authority under Illinois law to institute these necessary protective protocols, and firefighters and emergency medical services personnel should receive these patient notifications.
The more information we have as we prepare to respond, the better the outcome for all involved. When someone calls 911 for help, we want to be able to administer the best care possible and keep everyone safe and healthy. We always have and always will respect everyone’s privacy. It’s one of the reasons why our profession is consistently rated as one of the most trusted and ethical in America.
— Chuck Sullivan, president, Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois, Springfield