Legislators Hear Testimony On Invoice Increasing Staff’ Compensation

Legislators hear testimony about the expansion of workers’ compensation

The House Business and Labor Committee legislature heard testimony on Wednesday on several bills that would amend workers’ compensation, including one that would allow essential workers to receive benefits when they contract COVID-19.

Rep. Andrea Olsen, D-Missoula, sponsored House Bill 550.

“May we honor all who stood up for us all during the pandemic, despite the risks to their personal health and safety,” said Olsen.

Ole Hedstrom spoke on behalf of the Montana State Council of Professional Firefighters, the union that represents firefighters, in support of the law.

“This bill provides the necessary protection not just for my membership, but for every other major worker in the state of Montana,” Hedstrom said.

Opponents said the calculation was too broad. Alan Olson spoke on behalf of the Montana Petroleum Association.

“I think it’s impossible to find out where the employee got the virus from,” said Olson.

Olson was joined by five other opponents from industry and insurance companies, including the Montana State Fund, the agency for public workers’ compensation insurance.

Employers could refuse benefits under the bill if there is “clear and convincing evidence” that the employee contracted the illness outside of work.

James Bradley is a reporter for the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership between the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association, and the Greater Montana Foundation.

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