Workers’ comp. insurance company denies benefits for Lebanon officer who died after battle with COVID-19

LEBANON, Mo. (KY3) – The city of Lebanon’s workers’ compensation insurance provider has denied benefits to the family of officer Kendle Blackburn, who died last year after a battle with COVID-19.

Blackburn, who served as a law enforcement officer for more than two decades, died Dec. 28, 2020 at the age of 55 from COVID-19 complications. Gov. Mike Parson’s office said Blackburn contracted the virus in November while on duty.

Lebanon city officials were notified Friday that their workers’ compensation insurance provider, Missouri Employers Mutual, determined Officer Blackburn’s COVID-19 exposure and subsequent death did not meet qualifications for workers’ compensation, thus the claim had been denied.

“We are extremely disappointed in Missouri Employers Mutual decision to not classify Officer Blackburn’s death as a ‘Line of Duty” death,” said Lebanon mayor Jared Carr. “Officer Blackburn died a hero and sacrificed his life serving the community he loved. I call on Missouri Employers Mutual to immediately reconsider this decision and provide Officer Blackburn’s family with the benefits they deserve.”

“I think it is unfortunate whenever the leader of your state makes a statement that COVID-19 deaths for our first responders would be considered line of duty and a workers’ compensation group denied it,” said Rep. Jeff Knight, Mo Dist. 129 on the decision.

Workers’ compensation insurance provides medical, disability, rehabilitation, and death benefits to employees who suffer job-related injuries or illnesses.

According to a news release, Lebanon city leaders will continue their push to ensure benefits for Officer Blackburn’s family, arguing he should be covered under executive orders signed by Gov. Parson in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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