Feb. 12, 2006 – Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson has called a meeting of the Senate Labor Committee for Feb. 24 to get a firsthand look at the nagging problems with the government's Workmen's Compensation Fund, which has a shortfall approaching $100,000.
In the aftermath of conflicting information from two Turnbull administration cabinet members about the status of the fund, and against increasing complaints from injured workers who are having a hard time securing benefits, Nelson said this weekend he wants a discussion that will bring the problems with Workmen's Compensation to the forefront. "I don't know what excuse they are going to give, but we have set a meeting for Feb. 24 to engage a public discussion about what is going on with the fund."
Nelson thought the issue had been resolved more than two weeks ago, "but apparently it has not," he said. According to Nelson, a lack of financial management in the government is responsible for the crisis in Workmen's Compensation Insurance. It was a few weeks ago that Nelson spoke out about the fund being under financial duress. "It has been about four to five weeks of uncertainty for those slated to receive the funds."
The Workmen's Compensation Insurance program is compulsory, meaning that employers are required to provide worker's compensation insurance for their employees. The insurance is provided through a state fund.
Nelson's concerns about the fund's status were underscored at the end of last week when there were conflicting reports about where things stand. Labor Commissioner Cecil Benjamin, whose office oversees the fund, said the situation is being addressed. "Either the governor's office or the Finance commissioner is addressing the issues and soon they will be able to rectify the problems."
Benjamin said that the Labor Department was doing what it "was supposed to do and we ask anyone who receives compensation to be patient with us." He said everything possible is being done to bring about a resolution to the problems.
But Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull had a different story. Not only did she confirm the fund is in the red by some $90,000, she said the problems persist: "The cost of running the Workmen's Compensation program is far exceeding the monies in the fund."
Turnbull explained that even though the
benefits are not being paid out due to the financial problems, "there are still employees we have to pay…those who manage the program."
On Friday, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, in a $57.2 million dollar supplemental budget request, proposed pumping $3 million into the Workmen's Compensation program. "An amount of $3 million is requested to cover shortfalls within the Government Insurance Fund so that beneficiaries of the Workmen's Compensation Program can be adequately covered," Turnbull said in correspondence accompanying the supplemental budget bill he forwarded to the Senate.
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