Enhanced Death Benefit for Survivors of COVID-19 Victims

COVID-19 has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths across New York State. Sadly, the pandemic’s victims include NYSLRS members who carried out their essential duties despite personal risk.

The families of these selfless members can take some comfort in knowing that they may be eligible for enhanced death benefits. Recently enacted legislation provides certain beneficiaries of public employees who contract COVID-19 on the job and die from COVID-19 with an accidental death benefit.

father holding son

Most NYSLRS members are eligible for a death benefit if they die while in service; this “ordinary death benefit” provides a member’s designated beneficiary or beneficiaries a single, lump sum payment, worth up to three years’ salary. Alternatively, an “accidental death benefit” may be available to certain beneficiaries if the member’s death is a result of an on-the-job accident. The NYSLRS accidental death benefit is a pension paid to beneficiaries that are defined in statute, first to a surviving spouse, if no spouse to dependent children, then to dependent parent(s).

Generally, the accidental death benefit is equal to 50 percent of the member’s final average salary or last year’s salary depending on the retirement plan the member is enrolled in. You can find your retirement plan information on our Publications page. In addition to the accidental death benefit, a special accidental death benefit may also be payable to a member of the New York State and Local Police and Fire Retirement System.

“This new law is an important step toward protecting public workers who are on the front lines fighting the coronavirus and helping their communities,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. “If something happens to them, they deserve their retirement benefits and the peace of mind that their families are provided for.”  

Eligibility Requirements

A NYSLRS member’s statutory beneficiary would be eligible for the accidental death benefit if the member:

  • Worked at either their normal workplace or another assigned workplace, not their residence, as directed by their employer, on or after March 1, 2020;
  • Contracted COVID-19 within 45 days of the last day that the member reported for work;
  • Died on or before December 31, 2020; and
  • Died from COVID-19 or COVID-19 caused or contributed to their death.

The COVID-19 benefit also applies to members who were working as of March 1 but have since retired prior to July 1, 2020. If a member met the eligibility requirements above, but died after retiring, their statutory beneficiary will have the option of converting the service retirement benefit or disability retirement benefit to an accidental death benefit.

The COVID-19 benefit would be available for all NYSLRS members (Employees’ Retirement System as well as Police and Fire Retirement System members), regardless of job title, or tier. The legislation is effective through December 31, 2020.

How to Claim the Benefit

When someone calls NYSLRS to report a death, they should let us know it was COVID-related. We’ll also ask for an original death certificate. We will then reach out to the beneficiary to assist them in claiming the benefit. For the COVID-19 death benefit, NYSLRS will confirm with the employer the dates that the member reported to work and request the required documentation showing COVID-19 as the cause of death. The COVID-19 death benefit will be reduced by any ordinary death benefits paid out to a beneficiary by NYSLRS.

10 thoughts on “Enhanced Death Benefit for Survivors of COVID-19 Victims

  1. Ashley Gorfine

    We have been trying for 6 weeks to get this. We have spoken to the state several times. We have filled out the forms, everything. We have sent death certificates, spoken to staff and nobody knows what form to send. They tell us to fill out the ordinary but that is not correct. They said wait you will hear but nothing. We need help.

    1. NYSLRS Post author

      We’re sorry for your loss and we apologize for the trouble you are having. Your message is important to us and we have sent you a private message in response.

  2. Richard

    Can beneficiaries receive payments regardless of their age? For example, what if an employee who dies has a 20-year old wife beneficiary. Will she be able to draw the 50% pension throughout her life?

    1. NYSLRS Post author

      If you choose a NYSLRS pension payment option at that provides for a beneficiary after your death, your beneficiary will receive a lifetime benefit.

      Be aware, however, that the amount of the reduction in your pension is based on your life expectancy and the life expectancy of your beneficiary. That means the younger your beneficiary, the deeper the reduction. For more information, read our Lifetime Options blog post.

      1. Richard

        Thank you. Actually, I won’t be vested (eligible for pension) until Aug 2021…if I pass away due to COVID-19 related illness before Dec 31st this year because of returning to work, will my wife receive a pension, or only the payout from my contributions?

        1. NYSLRS Post author

          For account-specific details about this benefit, please email our customer service representatives using the secure email form on our website (http://www.emailNYSLRS.com). Filling out the secure form allows them to safely contact you about your personal account information.

  3. Shirin virani Virani

    My husband was working in grocery until March 30 he had all symptoms and isolated himself his fever turned into pneumonia and was hospitalized on april 13 tested covid positive they intubated him and he passed away on april 28 2020 in hospital at age of 52 I am his widow and have my daughter 16 dependent on me any help will be appreciated

    1. NYSLRS Post author

      We’re very sorry for your loss.

      If your husband was a NYSLRS member, you may be eligible for a death benefit. For more information, please call our customer representatives at 1-866-805-0990 or email them using the secure email form on our website (http://www.emailNYSLRS.com).

  4. Elizabeth Kalinowski

    I understand this is a very sad thing. My husband died of cancer six weeks before his 55th birthday and I didn’t even get his pension!


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