Workers compensation for first responders who contract COVID-19
The surging increase in deaths associated with the coronavirus in the Río Grande Valley has turned the nation's eyes on the region.
But what happens with police officers and their families when an officer dies due to COVID-19?
While Hidalgo County judge Richard Cortéz ordered that everyone in the county stay home between 10 p.m. until 5 a.m., there are many that have no choice.
That includes doctors, drug store and hospital employees, paramedics, firefighters and police officers.
"Our first-responders are the ones that cannot call in sick," said Kevin Lawrence, director of the Texas Municipal Police Association.
What's in doubt is whether the medical expenses for these essential workers should be paid for, if they become sick or die due to COVID-19.
Last week, Corpus Christi police officer Charlie "Chuck" Williams died due to complications related to the coronavirus.
Controversy erupted because his workers compensation denied his family compensation from his life insurance, claiming that his illness was not related to his job.
Williams' family has been appealing the decision.
"The benefit of the doubt should go to the first-responder," Lawrence said.
The Texas Municipal Police Association says workers compensation should consider that a police officer became sick or died by contracting a virus while on the job, especially during a pandemic.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS contacted several valley cities and their police departments to ask about workers comp for their police officers.
McAllen offers its officers life insurance, but the city could not specify whether they pay benefits to a police officer's next-of-kin if they die due to an illness related to the job.
Brownsville provides its officers with $10 thousand worth of life insurance coverage including death.
Mission also provides its officers with workers compensation including death.
"What we're much more concerned about are the officers that survive," Lawrence said.
Lawrence adds that workers compensation benefits are sometimes denied, which would've helped pay for medical expenses during recovery.
These officers would have to appeal or hire an attorney to get those benefits.
"We're going to have to learn from this experience and rewrite the statute," Lawrence said.
So that there isn't any doubt if a police officer became sick because of their job.
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