Legislative Memo


S.4693 (Velella)



Volunteer rescue workers



June 17, 2003


On September 11, 2001 the United States suffered a terrible loss of human life at the hands of those who sought to destroy the symbols of the American way of life. They were not successful. In the aftermath, the citizenry of the great State of New York pulled together. We were proud to witness countless acts of selflessness and boundless acts of heroism.

We can never repay those workers' for the sacrifices that they have endured during the rescue, recovery and clean up efforts at ground zero. However, The Business Council of New York State, Inc. does not believe that compensation to volunteers should be done within the workers' compensation system.

New York's workers' compensation system is designed exclusively for employees, not volunteers. The volunteer rescue workers should not be legislatively deemed employees in order to receive workers' compensation. If New York State wishes to set public policy and compensate the volunteer rescue workers it should do so outside of workers' compensation law.

The legislation fails to state which entity will be responsible for paying the benefits. Is the state responsible, the City of New York, or the federal government? This is not addressed in the bill.
Obviously, this is an important question that needs clarification. Who is going to pay for these benefits?

Existing workers' compensation law does not provide compensation for travel injuries which occur to a fixed worksite where the worker will be working throughout the day. This legislation would allow for travel injuries and expand the definition of injury.

Current workers' compensation law provides that under certain circumstances, children and spouses are eligible for the statutorily prescribed death benefit. Only when there is no spouse or children, does the workers' compensation law allow other eligible family members such as parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, who can show dependency on the victim, to be eligible for benefits. This legislation would allow domestic partners to become the equivalent of a spouse and therefore, eligible for death benefits. Giving domestic partners the same status as a spouse, has the potential to reduce the death benefits to eligible children and would make those dependent relatives ineligible for benefits. This legislation is retroactive and therefore, may delay benefits until the correct beneficiary can be determined.

For the reasons mentioned, The Business Council of New York State, Inc. opposes this legislation and urges its defeat.