Senate Democrats unveiled a proposal in March to increase the pay of essential workers on the frontlines of the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. If passed, as much as $25,000 in hazard pay would be afforded over a period of time to those deemed essential – including workers in healthcare, sanitation, trucking, transportation, at drug and grocery stores, and federal employees with frontline positions, such as Postal Service workers.
The raise would be equivalent to $13 per hour and would apply retroactively from the start of the health crisis emergency on January 27 until the end of the year, according to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Health care workers also could receive a one-time premium of up to $15,000 as part of a program to recruit and retain certain medical employees in fields experiencing shortages. The benefits would be applied retroactively for those already working on the frontlines and to the families of health care workers who’ve died as a result of coronavirus.
The proposal, which Democrats have dubbed the “Heroes Fund,” is being led by Senators Schumer, Patty Murray of Washington state, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Tom Udall of New Mexico and Gary Peters of Michigan.
Essential workers not part of the health care recruitment program who earn less than $200,000 per year would receive a maximum premium pay of $25,000 while those who make more than $200,000 would get a maximum of $5,000. The extra pay would apply through December 31 or until the worker’s salary-based maximum premium pay is reached.
The Heroes Fund would need significant buy-in from Republicans. Democrats in the House have changed course from advocating for a digital infrastructure-focused bill to pushing for an extension of the historic $2 trillion package recently passed, which would mean more individual checks, relief for small businesses and expanded unemployment benefits. But Republicans will be a tougher sell, no matter the direction. GOP lawmakers have advocated to allow time for the third package to reach businesses and workers before doling out more federal money.