Rep. Jones Offers Testimony in Support of First Responders Bill

Proposal will provide front line workers with emergency hazard health duty pay

BOSTON – House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) is calling for the passage of legislation that will provide emergency hazard health duty pay to police, firefighters and other public safety personnel who are quarantined, hospitalized or otherwise incapacitated due to exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

Representative Jones submitted written testimony to the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security on April 6 conveying his “strongest possible support for a favorable report” on House Bill 4611 and Senate Bill 2602, An Act relative to emergency hazard health duty. Both bills establish a work-related presumption for coronavirus exposure that will ensure public safety personnel who contract the virus or display symptoms that require self-quarantining measures are not forced to use previously accrued sick, vacation and personal time while they are out of work.

“Even under normal circumstances, our police, firefighters and other first responders often find themselves risking their own personal health and safety while carrying out their duties to serve and protect the public. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, their jobs have become exponentially more challenging and dangerous. It is imperative that we do everything we can to recognize and assist those individuals who are serving on the front lines during the pandemic,” Jones wrote.

The protections contained in House Bill 4611 and Senate Bill 2602 apply to “police, fire personnel, correction officers, dispatchers, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, nursing professionals” and anyone else considered to be a first responder.

Jones’ testimony was submitted via e-mail to Representative Harold P. Naughton and Senator Michael O. Moore, the House and Senate chairs of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, after they announced the committee would only be accepting written testimony in order to comply with social distancing guidelines designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The co-chairs have not indicated when they will render a decision on the two bills, but Jones said he hopes the committee acts quickly so the Legislature can implement these important protections as soon as possible.

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