"It's one of those, minor cracks that has shown up in the system," Glenn Deshields, legislative director of the Texas State Association of Fire Fighters, said.
House Bill 2073 calls for fire fighters, peace officers and EMTs to receive full pay and benefits while they are quarantined due to a possible or known exposure to COVID-19 or any infectious disease while on the job.
"They shouldn't have to fear whether or not they would have to miss a paycheck. They're just doing their job and through no fault of their own had to be put into quarantine," Representative Dustin Burrow (R-Lubbock) said.
Rep. Burrows introduced the bill earlier this week.
"We had an officer that made an arrest on a Friday in transporting to the jail, the suspect was exhibiting all the symptoms of COVID and sure enough they take him to the hospital and the result is he's COVID positive," Mitch Landry, deputy executive director of Texas Municipal Police Association, said.
"They had him [the officer] quarantine and refuse to give him time off," he explained.
"If you know you're going to end up paying this cost, you're going to start classifying exposures in your own way, instead of following policy," Deshields said.
"I did hear one story of a firefighter whose wife was pregnant and he'd been saving up his sick leave so he could take time off to be with her and their newborn child," Rep. Burrows recounted. "Unfortunately doing his job, he went out was exposed to COVID had to quarantine, had to burn through his sick leave."
The bill also calls for compensation for costs relating to quarantine including lodging, medical and transportation expenses.
It does not include any retroactive policies.
"Looking forward, we have to be prepared if we have another pandemic or some health crisis in the future. We don't want to be caught again having to fight these fights," Landry said.
As the bill heads into committee hearings, Representative Burrow's office is reaching out to more first responders who may have experienced these issues.
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