SOUTH CAROLINA, S.C. (CN2 NEWS) Despite being on the front-lines in a war against an invisible enemy, first responders say South Carolina’s workers’ compensation insurance won’t pay them if they catch COVID-19.
“Now if they fall and break their leg, it will be workers’ comp,” said T. Melton with the Richburg Fire Department, “But if they’re exposed to this, they will not.”
Melton says he’s concerned not just for his men and women at the department, but for their families as well.
“You just never know what you’re going to be exposed to,” said Melton.
Some local municipalities and counties have additional insurance plans that could bring some coverage. Chester County’s supervisor Shane Stuart says a few years ago he worked with the county’s rural fire coordinator to take out an additional policy which Stuart says covers COVID-19. However he believes people need to demand change at the state level.
“We’re asking our first responders to respond to something and not giving them the tools to do what they’re supposed to do,” said Stuart, “This needs to be addressed, and it needs to be addressed now.”
Representative Russell Fry from Horry County already drafted a bill saying first responders, healthcare providers and correctional officers diagnosed with COVID-19 should be entitled to the presumption that the diagnosis came from their job.
York County Representative Tommy Pope says he supports the bill, but unless the governor issues an executive order, it’s difficult to know when it will pass.
“There’s a possibility something like this could get fast-tracked, but it will be blocked a little bit by the fact that we’re just physically not there and not able to have the subcommittee hearings that we are usually able to have,” said Pope.
Pope says often people have to get attorneys involved to fight for workers compensation, and he doesn’t want first responders to face that battle.
“Much like our hospital workers, if we start getting our first responders infected and out of commission, who are we going to turn to?”