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President Trump said his administration is exploring whether to compensate health care workers on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic with supplemental hazard pay.
“It’s something we’re discussing in terms of bonus or bonus pay,” Trump said Wednesday evening during a White House briefing. “They’re like warriors, they’re like soldiers,” he added, referring to doctors, nurses and other health care workers grappling with the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Democratic lawmakers have also pushed for hazard pay - additional pay for workers doing hazardous work - for frontline workers like nurses, doctors and first responders.
"These nurses, these doctors, health care workers, they're risking their lives," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told NPR on Wednesday. "I'm sure when they walk to work or take the subway to work, they're wondering, 'will I catch this virus?' But they're like the firefighters and police officers and construction workers were heroes of 9/11; these are our heroes today. And they should get hazard pay."
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.
Earlier in the week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested the Trump administration would be open to a fourth stimulus package -- one that may include hazard pay for front-line workers who earn too much to qualify for a $1,200 cash check.
Under the existing $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, individuals who earn less than $75,000 are eligible for a check of $1,200, while couples who earn less than $150,000 will receive a check of $2,400. 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.
The U.S. has the most cases of COVID-19 in the world, with 216,722 reported, according to data provided by Johns Hopkins University, and 5,137 deaths.