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The Longshore Harbor Workers’ Compensation Clarification Act, introduced by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives this week, attempts to reinstate congressional intent to ensure that workers in the recreational marine repair industry have adequate workers’ compensation coverage. This legislation provides a more clear definition of a recreational vessel which allows small businesses in the marine repair industry to forgo duplicative insurance policies while ensuring these small businesses, 95% of which have fewer than 10 employees, can adequately protect their employees without incurring exorbitant costs.

In 2009, Congress passed Section 803 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which expanded an existing exception that allowed more recreational marine repair workers to receive workers’ compensation coverage under state law rather than under the Longshore Harbor Workers Compensation Act. This was necessary because repair workers were simply not buying the more expensive longshore policies and were thus left uncovered. Unfortunately, new regulations were issued in 2011 that adopted a definition of a recreational vessel that was far more complicated and onerous than the existing law. In doing so, this new regulatory definition ran counter to what Congress intended.

The Longshore Harbor Workers’ Compensation Clarification Act establishes a workable definition for a recreational vessel. It restores the intent of Congress in the original 2009 enactment to get coverage for these workers under less expensive state workers compensation insurance policies.

“Put simply, this bill is about protecting jobs while keeping workers covered. With 300 plus miles of inland waterways and 50,000 registered yachts, Ft. Lauderdale is the yachting capital of the world,” said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. “In Broward County alone, there are over 90,000 jobs in the recreational marine industry. These jobs allow workers to buy homes, provide for their families and contribute significantly to local economies. In 1984 and in 2009 Congress intended to make sure these workers and families were covered. This bill keeps that promise.”