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Heart and Lung Act expanded in Pennsylvania to include COVID-19

December 16, 2020

By Ernest B. Orsatti, Esquire

The Enforcement Officer Disability Benefits Law, commonly known as the Heart and Lung Act, was recently amended to apply to COVID-19 to provide for enforcement officer disability benefits. The Heart and Lung Act provides for full salary benefits for police, paid firefighters and other covered workers for 60 days, per incident. Under § 57A02,

(a) general rule. – A person covered under Section 1 (a) of the act of June 28, 1935 (P.L. 477, No. 193) referred to as the Enforcement Officer Disability Benefits Law, who contracts or is diagnosed with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), as identified in the proclamation of disaster emergency issued by the Governor on March 6, 2020, published at 50 Pa.B. 1644 (March 21, 2020), or is subject to quarantine resulting from exposure to COVID-19, and by reason thereof is temporarily incapacitated from performing his duties, shall be compensated in accordance with Section 1 (a) of the Enforcement Officer Disability Benefits Law.

(b) limitation. – a benefit received under subsection (a) shall be limited to 60 days for each incident.

There are a few ambiguities. The rule is not entirely clear as to whether the contraction of and/or exposure to COVID must be in the line of duty. It also does not clearly convey of it covers only salary or also medical benefits. With no further clarifying amendments, the interpretation will likely be carried out by the courts. Therefore, police officers, sheriffs, firefighters and others who are diagnosed with COVID or have to quarantine due to COVID, and are covered under the Heart and Lung Act, should inform their union leadership.

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