emts masks 022621 2SPRINGFIELD – 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, the governor signed State Senator Bill Cunningham’s 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.

“We’ve asked first responders and frontline workers to repeatedly put themselves in harm’s way to protect us throughout the pandemic,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “I’m proud Gov. JB Pritzker has signed the law to ensure that we, in turn, protect first responders and frontline workers, should they contract the virus while on the job.”

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.

The 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.

“Though many frontline workers have already received the vaccine, there are still some who haven’t,” Cunningham said. “We need to extend these protections until every first responder and essential worker who wants to get vaccinated has had the chance to do so.”

The new law, originally House Bill 4276, takes effect immediately.