California will expand workers’ compensation to essential workers across a variety of industries if they have contracted COVID-19.
“We want to keep workers healthy and keep them safe,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom at a press conference Wednesday.
Eligible workers include those on the frontlines of the coronavirus response, such as nurses, doctors and medics. It also covers workers whose jobs have been deemed essential, including workers on farms, and in grocery stores and warehouses.
The benefits will be retroactive — if a worker reported for a shift as early as March 19 and contracted the virus, they will be eligible. The benefits are also available to workers who test positive in the next 60 days.
“Governor Newsom’s executive order is an important step toward showing each and every worker they are valued, whether they are caring for the sick or for our fragile aging and disabled populations, providing early education for the children of essential workers, or keeping our airports, hospitals and public spaces clean,” April Verrett, president of the SEIU Local 2015 union, wrote in an emailed statement.
The state has also launched a web page for Californians to search for nearby testing locations and schedule appointments at state-run sites. Newsom recently announced a plan to open 86 new testing sites statewide, with a focus on rural and underserved areas. They will be run by the companies Verily and OptumServe.
Newsom says California is currently processing roughly 30,000 tests a day, and has tested over 800,000 people in recent months.
Meanwhile, jobless Californians continue to seek relief at a record scale. Newsom says the state has disbursed more than $10 billion in unemployment insurance benefits and through the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program — including $2 billion this week alone.
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