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PEF applauds new COVID laws extending accidental death benefits and creating vaccine leave

ALBANY – New York State passed two key COVID-19 bills (March 12, 2021), one that provides a two-year window for the application of accidental death benefits associated with public employees who contracted and died from the virus on the job, and another that provides up to four hours of paid leave for state workers to get vaccinated against COVID.

The New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) commends the legislature for supporting the hard-working front-line workers of the pandemic with the passage of these bills.

“PEF members across New York State put their lives on the line every day to treat, support, assist and serve the people of New York,” said PEF President Wayne Spence. “While we hope no more of our members pass away due to COVID contracted in the workplace, in the event they do, the accidental death benefit extension will provide their families with a financial safety net. More specifically, the accidental death benefit will protect survivors by paying a monthly defined benefit payment equal to 50 percent of the deceased members’ final average salary versus the ordinary death benefit that only provides a one-time payment equal to three times the members’ final average salary.  By providing this benefit, we are protecting the families of these workers who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our state. This is one way we can thank these heroes.”

Spence praised Assemblyman Peter J. Abbate Jr., Assemblyman Charles Fall and Senator Andrew Gounardes for their work on the bills.

“We are grateful to each of these legislators for their work on crafting these critical bills,”  Spence said.

Vaccination is in full swing across the state, but many workers don’t have available leave or can’t afford to take unpaid leave to get vaccinated. Passage of the COVID-19 vaccination leave bill provides up to four hours of leave per vaccination for both public and private employees, effective March 12, 2021.

“Encouraging New Yorkers to get their shots is sound public policy,” Spence said. “While we will continue to press for this bill to be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2021, and include leave for potential vaccine-induced illness, we are grateful the state has taken this proactive step toward easing the burden of workers struggling to find time to receive their vaccinations.”