MTA increases worker death benefits to $500,000 each for duration of pandemic

Photo Credit: MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann

Coronavirus continues to thrash the ranks of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, with 59 agency employees now dead of the illness.

But the families of those MTA workers represented by the Transport Workers Union Local 100 will now receive double the line-of-duty death benefits as before as a result of successful negotiations, the MTA announced Monday.

Earlier this year, labor negotiations resulted in a more than doubling of the line-of-death duty payout,  from $100,000 to $250,000. The families of essential frontline workers moving the city in the current crisis would get receive $500,000 from the MTA.

“We continue to take new steps every day to protect our employees,” MTA Chair Pat Foye said on Tuesday afternoon.

Employees with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 108 are also eligible for the payout alongside those in TWU. Bus drivers in the outer boroughs represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union could be eligible soon as the organization has the agreement but has not yet signed on officially.

The funds for the benefit will come from the MTA operating revenues, according to the MTA.

“We believe it is an absolutely appropriate expenditure … I expect to move it at the board meeting next week,” Foye said.

Up to about 3,000 workers have returned to work after exposure to the virus, and about 4,900 are still out on quarantine, Foye said. Healthcare will be provided to the spouses and dependents up to the age of 26 of the deceased for up to three years as part of the new benefit.

Precipitous declines in ridership across all divisions of the MTA, by about 90%, have put the MTA in financial trouble; the authority is projected to lose about $4 billion. Through the latest federal stimulus, however, the MTA could get about $3.8 million.

Even so, with stay-at-home orders still in effect and staff levels down, Foye advised non-essential workers not to use the subways or buses unless they have to. 

“If you don’t have to travel and you’re not an essential worker, stay home. If you’re not feeling well, stay home,” Foye said.

The MTA said it has spoken to the families of those who have died to expedite the delivery of benefits with Pat Foye telling reporters the details would “be worked out.”

Families will get paid out in a lump sum and the MTA will not require proof that the individual contracted COVID-19 on the job.

“I myself had COVID-19 and don’t know where I contracted it. We will not be asking that of our fallen colleagues,” Foye said. “We believe that under the horrific and extraordinary circumstances of this pandemic, this is the appropriate thing to do.”

An estimate for what the benefits would cost as a whole will be presented at the April board meeting. Foye told reporters the benefit was not a measure to avoid any form wrongful death litigation.

The increased benefit will only be available for as long as the coronavirus is a widespread issue.

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