cunningham 011121SPRINGFIELD – During the first peak of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law offering additional workers’ compensation protections to first responders and essential workers. Today, State Senator Bill Cunningham led the Illinois Senate in passing a measure to extend those protections by six months.

The law allows essential workers and first responders to file for workers’ compensation benefits if they contract COVID-19 during the course of their employment – providing them with additional economic support while they recover from the illness. Employers have an opportunity to rebut workers’ claims by demonstrating they followed all applicable public health guidelines.

“This law was a fair compromise that protects workers without unduly burdening businesses,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “It encourages businesses to protect their employees to the best of their ability and gives workers who aren’t protected more resources to help them recover.”

The plan was negotiated between business and labor groups last spring, who all understood the pandemic has created an extraordinary circumstance that puts everyone’s physical and economic health at risk.

Cunningham’s measure also extends laws that increase the recovery period for certain injured public employees and provides death benefits to certain police and firefighters who die from COVID-19 contracted in the line of duty.

“We all need to thank our first responders and essential workers for their incredible dedication and sacrifice during this crisis,” Cunningham said. “They’ve helped Illinois and so many of its residents make it through this terrible situation.”

The measure, House Bill 4276, now goes to the Illinois House for final consideration.