These “unsung heroes” deserve our gratitude, Sen. Casey said this week.
A new proposal from Sen. Bob Casey and fellow Senate Democrats seeks to give a bonus of $25,000 to frontline workers of the coronavirus pandemic—specifically those making less than $200,000 per year. Nurses, doctors, and emergency responders make up an invaluable part of the frontline, but so do grocery store workers, pharmacy workers, truck drivers, and other employees of essential businesses who are risking their wellbeing to keep the rest of us afloat during this public health crisis.
The “Heroes Fund” is a provision of “pandemic premium pay” that seeks to “reward, retain, and recruit” essential workers. The plan itself is simple: Every frontline worker who makes less than $200,000 would get a $25,000 check, which is equivalent to a $13 per hour pay raise from the start of the outbreak to the end of 2020.
The fund would also offer a $15,000 incentive to attract additional essential workers who are needed to assist in the pandemic.
Casey joins Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Udall (D-NM) and Gary Peters (D-MI) in unveiling the COVID-19 Heroes Fund legislation.
“We are in a war against COVID-19, and we owe our gratitude to all of the workers who are putting their own health and safety at risk by fighting on the front lines of this pandemic,” Casey said in a statement. “And just like wartime, we must recognize and reward those who are on the front lines—health care professionals, first responders, personal care and home health workers, truck drivers, grocery store workers and other unsung heroes—for their selfless efforts to do the critical work of protecting our citizens and keeping our country running so millions of Americans can stay safe at home.”
This proposed legislation isn’t the only relief lawmakers are hoping to provide to essential workers during this crisis. New York Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney announced this week that she plans to introduce legislation to alleviate the financial burden of student loan debt for frontline healthcare workers.
The Student Debt Forgiveness for Frontline Health Care Workers Act would eliminate graduate school debt for healthcare workers who are providing direct patient care in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This would include recent graduates and experienced healthcare providers who are still paying off their student loans.
Maloney said it’s important to recognize the dangerous circumstances these workers are placing themselves in to care for critically ill COVID-19 patients. “The least we can do to recognize their service is to forgive their graduate student loan debt so that they are not forced to worry about their financial wellbeing in addition to their health and the health of their families while they respond to a public health emergency,” she said.
Meanwhile, Casey’s Heroes Fund would provide funding directly to eligible employers so they could then distribute the premium payments to workers. Employers would also be required to track payments and return unspent funds to the federal government.
The proposal also includes benefits for families of essential workers who died as a result of COVID-19 and government contract employees who are deemed essential.
Senate Democrats are pushing for the proposal to be included in the phase four coronavirus relief bill Congress is set to negotiate after returning to work the week of April 20.
Sen. Casey is hopeful that the bill will receive bipartisan support. “The Heroes Fund would provide essential workers with increased compensation and incentivize others to join the fight against COVID-19.”
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