Last Tuesday, senate Democrats launched a proposal that would uplift the pay of essential workers who battle against the COVID-19 outbreak. According to Newsweek, the boost, also known as Heroes Fund, could go as far as $25,000 in hazard pay; it would be provided over a period of time to those considered essential. These included workers in healthcare, grocery stores, sanitation, truck drivers, and federal employees with direct contact, such as Postal Service workers. While explaining the reason for the proposal Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, explained in a conference call:
“As the COVID pandemic has reached alarming new levels, our health care system is strained to the max, our economy is strained to the max. Doctors and nurses, medical personnel of all types are putting their lives on the line every single day to fight this disease and save others.”
“And so are people not in the medical profession but in essential services: grocery store workers, truck drivers, drug store workers and pharmacists. For these Americans, working from home is not an option. Social distancing is not an option.”
The Hill explains that the Heroes Fund would offer funding directly to qualifiable employers so they could distribute the payments to employees themselves. They would also be asked to keep records of payments and “return unspent funds to the federal government.” Employees of agencies that contract directly with governments (state, local) and seen as essential would also qualify for benefits. The proposal would offer benefits to the families of essential workers who have perished because of COVID-19.
The Hill also says that Democrats are also planning an essential worker recruitment incentive. This will result in a payment of $15,000 to bring-in and keep doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. Many of these professionals are known for working extensive shifts in the workplace.
What About Congress?
Politico has gone the extra mile in addressing the elephant in the room. According to the political publication, Republicans haven’t signed on the plan. This indicates some conflict, considering that congressional Republicans are also sending “billions of dollars more to small businesses” that have been victims of COVID 19.
Nevertheless, Congress did give the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services latitude in regards of the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill’s hospital bailout fund. According to Politico, Congress is allowing the program to decide how to distribute said funds. The first portion, $30 billion, would go out to hospitals within days. The next portion will concentrate on health providers in places like nursing homes, pediatricians and children’s hospitals. However, supporting the bailout does not automatically translate to supporting the Heroes Fund.
What Does The Public Say?
“In short, I hope it passes. I’m curious how the government could afford that but I am hopeful,” said a fire specialist from Ridgewood, Queens. While some remain hopeful, others are still skeptical. An essential worker from the Department of Transportation said:
“I really don’t have any objections when it comes to those people who are on the front lines. But more specification is needed for who will get this. Construction, sanitation, or pretty much all city workers are working, I think. Also, restaurant workers and supermarket workers are out there too. Yeah, I am trying to be positive too, but do you see this bill passing Congress?”
Others don’t have trust in Schumer at all. “Whenever you see those kinds of funds, you know where they go to? To Schumer supporters. That’s it.” Said another essential worker from Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Whatever the case may be, let’s hope our Heroes get the reward they deserve.
Interviewees in this piece have chosen to remain anonymous, but Grit Daily has corroborated their employment prior to publishing.