The Board of Supervisors Tuesday authorized the Riverside County Department of Human Resources to spend an additional $4 million in the current fiscal year to cover costs stemming from workers’ compensation claims, which spiked unexpectedly.
“There was a dramatic increase starting in February of this year,” Supervisor Kevin Jeffries said prior to the 5-0 vote in favor of increasing the department’s revenue stream. “I’m just curious what we’re going to do.”
Human Resources Director Brenda Diederichs told the board most of the jump in expenses is due to “past years’ claims that haven’t closed out completely.”
Jeffries questioned whether any of the surge was related to people filing claims connected to coronavirus, and Diederichs replied that there was a possibility “COVID may have impacted the short-term disability insurance (fund) to some degree.”
However, she said the lion’s share of disability claims arose from other issues.
“(The claims) are an accumulation of prior years’ experiences,” the human resources chief said. “Injuries can be longer, especially if a person goes into surgery.”
The department had budgeted $25 million to cover workers’ comp costs in the current fiscal year, but the additional $4 million will be needed to manage short- and long-term claims as 2020-21 comes to a close.
“We don’t take claims at face value,” Diederichs said. “We investigate if there is some dispute as to injury or illness. And we employ firms to carry on investigations more deeply, if that’s warranted.”
The extra money authorized by the board will be drawn from a reserve account and not directly from the general fund, according to Diederichs.