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House committee investigates Missouri 2nd Injury Fund

By Marshall Griffin, KWMU

Jefferson City, MO – A House committee heard testimony Wednesday on Missouri's Second Injury Fund, which will go broke within a year or two, according to both a state audit and an independent study requested by Governor Matt Blunt.

The Second Injury Fund is used to pay already-injured workers who return to the workforce, then suffer additional on-the-job injuries.

Omar Davis, Director of the Missouri Department of Labor, testified that the fund is paying out more money than it's taking in.

"We don't want a half-fix or a patch that just gets us through a rough patch...we need short-term fixes that fix the eminent funding crisis, and then long-term fixes that are (going to) address the concerns of industry," Davis said.

And those fixes will be up to lawmakers. However, State Representative Steve Hunter, who chairs the Interim Committee on the Second Injury Fund, thinks it should be done away with.

"Business(es) around the state (are) looking at this, and St. Louis would be deeply affected, with the manufacturers they've got over there that are about ready to leave the state," Hunter said.

The Republican from Joplin sees it as an economic development issue.

"19 states have totally reformed...they don't have a second injury fund...they go through the regular workers comp system," Hunter said.

Davis also testified that about half of all first injuries involved in second injury claims were actually non-work related.

He said, though, that they have no hard data to back up that claim.

Earlier this year, State Auditor Susan Montee recommended that lawmakers enact a short-term fix to cover the Second Injury Fund's looming shortfall.

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