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Senate Democrats are proposing giving hazard pay of up to $25,000 to essential workers, including grocery store employees, transit workers and truck drivers, on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.
The bonus pay, which would equate to a $13 an hour raise for recipients, would go toward workers who “are in the line of fire, day in and day out,” Senate Minority Chuck Schumer said during a Tuesday conference call with reporters. It would extend from the beginning of the virus outbreak through the end of the year.
“It's the right thing to do. It's the moral thing to do,” Schumer said. “When America has a crisis, we all pull together, and no one has pulled together more than these essential workers who deserve hazard pay. We are asking these workers to take on great risk. They should be compensated for it.”
The Democrats’ proposal, the so-called Pandemic Premium Pay, would offer up to $25,000 for workers earning less than $200,000 a year and up to $5,000 for those earning more than $200,000. It would also offer an essential worker recruitment incentive of up to $15,000 for medical workers.
Schumer did not provide a total cost estimate for the proposal.
Many hospital workers and medical providers have expressed concern about their high risk of exposure to the virus, particularly given the inadequate access to personal protective equipment like masks, gowns and gloves, that could help to protect them.
The Trump administration might be open to a fourth stimulus package, which may include hazard pay for front-line workers who earn too much to qualify for the one-time payment of $1,200 set aside in the CARES Act, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said earlier this week.
President Trump has also said he’s considering hazard pay for health-care workers, like doctors, nurses and others grappling with the outbreak of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
“It’s something we’re discussing in terms of bonus or bonus pay,” Trump said last week during a White House briefing. “They’re like warriors, they’re like soldiers."
The existing $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill is paying people $1,200 who earn less than $75,000, and $2,400 to couples who earn less than $150,000. Children receive $500. The payments are tapered for higher-earners and are phased out completely for individuals who earn more than $99,000, or couples who earn more than $198,000.