Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today, the House achieved a milestone for Workers’ Compensation in Alaska – my bill, HB 38, passed the House.
Modernizing Workers’ Compensation
Dubbed the Abigail Caudle bill, House Bill 38, passed along caucus lines, despite the fact that the minority supported the larger pieces of the bill. Nevertheless, I am incredibly excited to see this legislation move to the Senate.
What Will HB 38 Do?
When workers are permanently disabled due to a workplace injury, they become eligible for a PPI benefit. This benefit is determined by the severity of the disability, which is calculated by the American Medical Association. For example, amputation of an arm at the shoulder has been determined to be a 60% impairment, so someone who lost their arm at work would be eligible for a benefit of up to 60% of the whole body rating under the PPI.
This whole body rating -- set at $177,000 -- hasn’t been adjusted for inflation since 2000. HB 38 adjusts this value, increasing it to $255,506, and requires that the value be adjusted for inflation annually.
If an employee dies due to a work-related injury, and has no surviving spouse or children, but does have financially-dependent family members, those family members are eligible for a death benefit. The value for this benefit was set in 1968 and hasn’t been adjusted for inflation in 50 years. Under current statute, the maximum benefit is $20,000. HB 38 increases this benefit to $100,000.
This issue was brought to my attention several years ago, when a 19-year-old electrician apprentice, Abigail Caudle, lost her life due to a work-related accident. Her mother was unable to sue for wrongful death because of Workers’ Compensation laws. And because Abigail was an unmarried, childless person, her family was ineligible for the same death benefits afforded workers who have dependents.
HB 38 creates a new death benefit for surviving parents or, if there are none, to the estate of the deceased worker. The bill allows for a benefit of up to $70,000, thus providing justice to families who lose their loved ones to a work related injury.
I’m proud to have moved this legislation from the House and into to the Senate. I’ll continue to work hard on worker protections for families across Alaska.
The Rogers Park Community Council is meeting this Monday, April 9th at 7:00 pm at Rogers Park Elementary School.
The Russian Jack Community Council is meeting next Wednesday, April 11th at 7:00 pm at Williwaw Elementary School.
The Campbell Park Community Council is meeting next Wednesday, April 19th at 7:30 pm at Tudor Elementary School.
Community Councils are a great way to get involved and stay informed about issues going on right in your own neighborhood. If you’re interested in attending the community council meetings, you can find more information on the Anchorage Federation of Community Councils’ website.
Now more than ever, it’s important that I hear from you, my constituents. Down here in Juneau, I am doing my best to make decisions in your best interests, but I can’t do that without your input. I welcome you to call, email, or write.
If you have a topic or event that you would like to see in my next newsletter, feel free to get in touch with me or my staff. Please make note that my office will be based in Juneau until May.
I look forward to hearing from you.
I answer to you!