Families of transit workers who died from coronavirus will get a $500,000 benefit, after 59 MTA employees have died from COVID-19.
“This is a first-in-the nation agreement that will protect and provide the families of those we have lost with substantial benefits, befitting the tragic loss they experienced,” MTA Chairman Pat Foye said Tuesday.
Union leaders had pressed the MTA to provide so-called $500,000 line-of-duty death benefits - part of the existing MTA labor contract - to those workers who died from coronavirus, but the MTA wanted the federal government to step in and pay. After several days of negotiation, the deal on a COVID-19 family death benefit was reached.
“This COVID-19 death benefit is a recognition for the incredible contributions and sacrifices our workforce has made,” said John Samuelsen, president of the Transport Workers Union.
In addition to a lump $500,000 payment to surviving families, the MTA will also cover health insurance for spouses and dependents for three years. The MTA will not require families to prove the virus was contracted on the job, with Foye using his own experiencing contracting coronavirus.
"I was tested positive, I have no idea how or when or under what circumstances I came in contact with the virus, we're not going to require that of our fallen colleagues,” Foye said.
Foye also said that the benefit is not intended to head off any litigation by families of transit workers.
“We believe it's the right thing to do,” Foye said.
The deal covers workers represented by subway, bus, and commuter rail unions. Negotiations with other MTA employees are ongoing. The MTA chairman also wants the board to approve the benefit for non-union employees.