As COVID-19 kills public health workers, a proposed fund could help their families

Local News

BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — A proposed fund for Louisiana families of public health workers who have died of COVID-19 has cleared its first legislative hurdle.

The state House’s budget panel advanced Rep. Royce Duplessis’ proposal without opposition Tuesday. Duplessis, a New Orleans Democrat, cited inspiration from Larrice Anderson, a New Orleans East Hospital nurse who died Mar. 31.

“There is no dollar amount that will bring back family members we’ve lost,” said New Orleans East Hospital CEO Takeisha Davis told BRProud.com in an interview Tuesday. “But this would at least honor the sacrifice of those health care workers on the front lines in the same way we do for our military and first responders.”

The fund would strictly offer benefits to health workers at publicly owned facilities — and their families. The late employee would have had to provide direct care to patients since Mar. 1, gotten the virus within 45 days after working, and died no later than June 5 of the virus or complications. It would give each family three times the employee’s final-year salary, with a $150,000 benefits cap. Families would have until the end of 2022 to apply.

The money wouldn’t come right away, though. While Duplessis’ bill would establish the fund, his legislation wouldn’t actually fund the benefits. Lawmakers would have to appropriate those dollars separately; the soonest that would likely happen is 2021.

“We’ve put everything in this pot of gumbo,” state Rep. Rodney Lyons (D-Harvey) told House committee members Tuesday. “We’ve just got to let it simmer and get it to the point where we can move forward and make it happen.”

“We often give large tax credits and incentives to large corporations,” said state Rep. C. Denise Marcelle (D-Baton Rouge. “Perhaps if we can cut back on some of that, we can figure out how we can take care of some of those health care workers.”

But first, the bill itself faces a legislative deadline. It must pass through the full House, a Senate committee, then the full Senate by next Tuesday at 6 p.m.

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