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Labor and business leaders in California are furiously lobbying the governor’s office over a sweeping change the administration is said to be considering to the state workers’ compensation system for health care workers and others on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Politico’s report, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office did not provide a response Monday nor confirm that a proposal is in the works. But those familiar with the discussions, as well as letters sent to the governor in recent weeks by high-profile groups, suggest the change would create a presumption that certain “essential workers” who contract the disease were exposed on the job — and, therefore, entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

Such a shift could cost employers between $2.2 billion and $33.6 billion per year, the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California estimated on Monday. The bureau’s mid-range estimate of $11.2 billion amounted to 61 percent of the system’s typical costs per year.

A bill amended in the state Senate last week would have a similar effect, though possibly with fewer types of workers. CA AB664 (19R) would extend to “certain state and local firefighting personnel, peace officers, certain hospital employees, and certain fire and rescue services coordinators.” Assemblymembers Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), a former Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department captain, and labor champion Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) are its main authors.

Business leaders argue that shift could strain the system and cost employers billions of dollars in increased premiums at a time when many are laying off workers and trying to stay afloat.

“Many businesses and their owners are casualties of the necessary economic shutdown,” wrote California Chamber of Commerce President Allan Zaremberg to Newsom and his staff in a letter dated April 7. “They cannot be expected to shoulder a new employer-financed social safety net, with expensive new mandates, at precisely the moment when small businesses are shuttering, employee hours are cut, and uncertainty about the future is the new normal.”

In a statement Monday, CalChamber pointed to the new cost estimate and noted that the association had expressed concern to Newsom about “an overly broad executive order because it would create an enormous and unnecessary burden on the worker’s compensation system.”

But a prominent labor leader has argued that it is the right thing for the state to do.

“Workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic put their lives at risk just doing their jobs,” wrote Art Pulaski, head of the California Labor Federation, in a late March letter to Newsom. “If they are infected with COVID-19, the workers’ compensation system must quickly provide medical and indemnity benefits — such workers should not have to fight denials and delays while fighting for their lives.”

Sean Walsh, who runs a consulting firm with former Gov. Pete Wilson and was a senior policy adviser to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said he had briefings from four business groups on Monday about an executive order Newsom is contemplating that would alter the workers’ compensation system for those affected by the pandemic.

The California Farm Bureau Federation is a nonprofit organization of farmers and ranchers consisting of county Farm Bureaus from nearly every county in California, established in 1919 to work for the betterment of family farmers and ranchers in California.

The problem is that it puts in the pockets of employers the responsibility for the costs of COVID-19 illnesses where the exposure and infection could have just as easily happened off the job as on the job,” said Bryan Little, Director of Employment Policy for California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF).