Injured workers and business owners will be the main beneficiaries of legislation approved by the State Senate Wednesday. HB 1771 by Senator Brad Henry and Representative Mike Ervin will pump much-needed money into the Special Indemnity Fund, the account used to compensate workers for on-the-job injury awards, in addition to returning a $120 million premium rebate to State Insurance Fund customers.
"This is a win-win proposition for the state of Oklahoma. It delivers $30 million in benefits that are owed to injured workers and gives customers of the Insurance Fund a hefty rebate. It's one of those rare pieces of legislation that offers the best of both worlds," said Senator Henry.
Under the provisions of HB 1771, the State Insurance Fund will rebate surplus dollars to its customers in the form of an "extraordinary dividend," totaling approximately $120 million.
"That's going to be a huge boost for the hundreds of small businesses across the state. They'll be getting a check in the mail that's better than any tax cut they've ever seen," noted Senator Henry.
Because the State of Oklahoma is one of the insurance fund's largest customers, it will receive a rebate of approximately $30 million. That funding, in turn, will be deposited into the Special Indemnity Fund to pay off a backlog of court awards for injury claims for approximately 6,000 injured workers.
"There's no excuse for making injured workers wait months or even years for the money to which they are entitled. It's time that we made good on our promises to them. With this legislation, we'll be able to keep our word and make life a little easier for thousands of families around the state," said Senator Henry.
In an effort to prevent any future backlog of claims, the legislation also eliminates permanent partial disability claims from future Special Indemnity Fund awards. Because of that change, ample money will accrue in the account to cover other injury claims.
"This is a long-term fix to a problem that's been nagging Oklahoma for years. It's a plus for workers, it's a plus for business and it's a plus for the state of Oklahoma," said Senator Henry.