Pension Benefits Report
In the middle of March 2020, we were all caught off-guard by the COVID-19 virus. During this time, our members have been out on the front lines performing their jobs to the best of their ability with little attention or fanfare. During the COVID outbreak, some of our members contracted the virus, and 14 NJSPBA members gave their lives and paid the ultimate sacrifice during the height of the pandemic. While we should never forget the deaths of those members, we also cannot forget that many of our members contracted COVID-19 and some members still have lingering effects to this date.
The New Jersey State PBA, along with our partners, lobbied for specific legislation to ensure that our members will be taken care of if they contracted COVID-19 or died as a result of it. The law, P.L. 2020 c. 54, was enacted in July 2020 and was maderetro active to March 9, 2020.
P.L. 2020 c. 54, now known as Chapter 54, states that PFRS members may be eligible for an accidental disability pension if they contracted COVID-19 and tested positive during the public health emergency in the state, which was declared by Governor Murphy in Executive Order No. 103 of 2020, and the member’s regular or assigned duties required the member to interact with the public or directly supervised other personnel that interacted with the public on any date during the public health emergency in the State of New Jersey which was declared by the Governor in Executive Order number 103, and was extended, and within 14 calendar days prior to the appearance of symptoms consistent with COVID-19 that shall have been confirmed in writing by a licensed health professional care provider on a form approved by the PFRS-NJ board of trustees and also confirmed by a positive test result for COVID-19.
The way I interpret that is, if you contracted COVID during the time frame of the declaration of the public health emergency, even the dates that it was extended to, you would be eligible for accidental disability if your lingering side effects are a direct result of you having COVID-19 (proven with a positive test). You must prove that the effects of COVID-19 are the cause of your lingering medical condition, and that nexus is the reason for your total and permanent disability.
This law also applies to members that were approved for retirement during the public health emergency. Members that retired during the public health emergency in Executive order number 103 may apply for a Covid-19 accidental disability allowance. If they are approved, their retirement allowance would be recalculated to reflect an accidental disability under this law, which would be retroactive to the date of initial approval of the rescinded retirement allowance. The retired members must have contracted Covid-19 while working and interacted with the general public or supervised personnel that interacted with the general public, and they tested positive for Covid-19. You must prove that the effects of Covid-19 are the causation of your lingering medical condition, and that nexus is the reason for your total and permanent disability.
This law does not apply to those members who may have retired during the Public Health Emergency declared by the governor’s Executive Order Number 103 and then returned to work as a permitted retired member during the public health emergency pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order Number 115 of 2020.
Many of our members still have lingering effects from COVID-19. I have been receiving many inquiries regarding this issue and would urge you to call me if you have any questions regarding this law.