Families of Montanans killed on the job would receive $10K under legislative proposal

Rep. Derek Harvey, D-Butte, gives closing arguments for his bill Wednesday. The House Business and Labor committee will vote Friday on House Bill 198, which would more than double the amount of money given to the estates of people who die on the job. (James Bradley/UM Legislative News Service)

HELENA — Families of workers who die on the job could receive more money under a new bill backed by trade unions in a legislative committee hearing Wednesday.

Currently, the estates of people killed at work are entitled to up to $4,000 from their workers’ compensation insurance. House Bill 198 would allow up to $10,000. 

Rep. Derek Harvey, D-Butte, sponsored the bill, and said about 10 workers’ compensation cases each year involve a death. 

Chris Puyear spoke on behalf of the Montana Funeral Directors Association. He said the average cost of a burial is around $11,000.

The bill hearing in the House Business and Labor Committee drew 14 supporters.

Jack McBroom is the business manager for the regional chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers but said he spoke for more than just union workers.

“It’s not a union or non-union thing. It’s the decent thing to do,” McBroom said.

The bill’s two opponents said they didn’t oppose the increased payout, but said the bill was too vague.

The committee is expected to vote on the bill Friday.

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.