2007-03-09 / Community

Legislature, Governor Agree On Worker's Comp Changes

Assemblywoman Audrey I. Pheffer has announced that the Legislature and Governor Spitzer have reached an agreement to reform New York State's workers' compensation system - a move that increases future benefits for injured workers and reduces costs for employers between 10 and 15 percent.

"Reforming New York's broken workers' compensation system is a major achievement," said Pheffer. "We have one of the most expensive systems in the nation that gives low benefits and requires high premiums. This agreement helps injured workers better make ends meet without forcing small businesses to close their doors."

Under the new agreement, the maximum benefit rate for injured workers in the future is increased over a four-year period from $400 to two-thirds of the average weekly wage in New York. In year 1, the rate is raised to $500; in year 2, to $550; and in year 3, to $600. In year 4, the rate will be indexed to the average weekly wage.

In addition, the minimum weekly benefit will increase from $40 to $100.

The agreement will also provide hundreds of millions of dollars in cost savings by: setting the maximum number of years that a small population of claimants can receive cash benefits. Medical services will continue, however, and a safety net will be established to help get these workers to return to gainful employment and to intervene in cases of extreme hardship; creating innovative programs to get workers prompt medical treatment and to help them return to gainful employment; and creating strong anti-fraud measures, including the ability to stop work on a job site where a company has failed to purchase workers' compensation insurance for its workers and higher criminal penalties for violators.

Assemblywoman Pheffer also noted that the state's Superintendent of Insurance will work with the Workers' Compensation Board and the Department of Labor to make additional administrative reforms within the system.

"For the first time in more than a decade, workers coming into the system will see benefits raised and businesses will be able to keep insurance costs down. It benefits everyone, including taxpayers, and strengthens New York's economic competitiveness," said Pheffer.

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