A bill approved by the state legislature to shore up the Second Injury Fund and make changes to the workers' compensation program - Senate Bill 1 - has been signed into law by Gov. Jay Nixon.
The governor had called on the General Assembly to address the issue of the Second Injury Fund in his January State of the State Address.
"I appreciate the bipartisan efforts of lawmakers and stakeholders to craft a fair solution to a difficult, complex and long running-problem," Gov. Nixon said July 10. "Shoring up the Second Injury Fund will provide long-overdue certainty to businesses and security to injured workers. I thank Senator Scott Rupp and Representative Todd Richardson for their work to get this bill to my desk, and am pleased to make it law with my signature today."
Established in 1943 to encourage businesses to hire previously disabled or injured individuals, the Second Injury Fund is financed by a surcharge on businesses' workers' compensation costs.
For several years, the fund has been unable to fully honor its obligations to pay claims. Senate Bill 1 authorizes a supplemental surcharge on businesses not to exceed three percent of their workers' compensation premiums and by making several changes to the scope of the Second Injury Fund's coverage.
This news will make one Sunrise Beach couple happy. Allen and Chris Robinette are thankful that the state legislature and governor came together to try to resolve the problems with the fund.
Allen Robinette is one of hundreds of citizens around the state who was awarded disability payments from the Second Injury Fund but had not received any money.
Awarded 100 percent permanent disability in court in November 2011 after suffering an injury on the job in addition to a prior disability from loss of hearing, Allen was supposed to receive $256 a week from the time of his injury in 2007.
In December 2011, he instead received a letter from the Missouri Attorney General's Office stating that the fund was unable to make the payments.
Since then, Allen and his wife Chris have been living on a limited income with bills from medications, rent and other living expenses.
"It has been a long battle for a lot of us that have been awarded this," said the Robinettes in an emailed statement. "We have good news - about a week ago we got news from our lawyer that he had our money. They had started paying people where they left off three years ago which is a blessing for all of us. We are grateful for this and all the hard work we all put in."
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster thanked Nixon for signing the bill and commended the bill's sponsor, Senator Scott Rupp, and Representative Todd Richardson, who handled the legislation in the House, for their dedication throughout the 2013 legislative session to reach a bipartisan agreement on the bill.
Page 2 of 2 - "I appreciate Governor Nixon's careful review of the Second Injury Fund bill, and his decision to sign the bill into law," Koster said. "The insolvency of the Fund means that the state has been unable to pay more than 1,380 Missourians the awards to which they are entitled, totaling over $32 million. This law allows the state to begin the process of providing relief to these injured workers."
Because the bill's provisions do not take effect until Jan. 1, 2014, the Second Injury Fund will not see increased revenue from the additional surcharge until the following April - the end of the first quarter of next year. This will require the state to continue to manage withheld awards for some period of time.