Local gov'ts must now provide death benefits to frontline public workers

May 25, 2020

Local governments in New York will now be required to provide death benefits to public workers on the front line of the COVID-19 crisis, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who also urged the federal government Monday to provide hazard pay to those individuals.

Those benefits will be paid for by local pension funds in the case of local government workers, and the state pension fund for employees of the state government, Cuomo said.

“Today, we’re saying we honor that service and we’re going to make sure that every government in the state of New York provides death benefits to those public heroes who died from COVID-19 during this emergency,” Cuomo said.

He also called, again, on the federal government to provide funding to allow frontline workers to receive hazard pay for their work during the COVID-19 crisis.

“There’s not a transit worker who drove a bus, or conducted a train, or walked into an emergency room who wasn't scared to death,” Cuomo said.

The federal government, as of now, hasn’t committed to providing funds that could be used for hazard pay. There have been proposals in Congress, but none have come to fruition.

New York, for its part, continues to scramble from the economic consequences of COVID-19. The state is facing a $13 billion gap in revenue on top of funds it’s spent to respond to the disease, which Cuomo said again Monday could result in spending cuts statewide.

Members of the state Legislature are set to reconvene in Albany this week to consider a number of proposals related to COVID-19, though details haven’t been fleshed out.

That comes as the state continues to report a positive trend in the prevalence of COVID-19. Total hospitalizations were down to 4,348 statewide Sunday, the latest data available from the state. Of those, 1,058 people were intubated.

An additional 96 people died from the disease in New York Sunday — the second time the daily number has dipped below 100 since late March. The statewide death toll is now 23,488.

Cuomo was asked at his briefing about a recent  increase in hospitalizations in the Finger Lakes and Central New York, and whether that might be related to those regions now having been in their Phase 1 reopening for the last week.

The governor said it is certainly possible that reopening of some businesses may lead at times to an increase in the infection rate, but in this case, he says it’s been too fast since the reopenings occurred to have been directly related to the Phase 1 reopening.