With mounting coronavirus cases among healthcare professionals, Sen. Gary Peters is advocating for hazard pay for frontline workers.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, up for re-election in November, is working with other Democrats in the Senate to give essential frontline healthcare workers hazard pay during the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19.
Called the “COVID-19 Heroes Fund”, the proposal would give those workers a $25,000 premium payment to help recruit and retain the workers fighting on the frontlines of the pandemic. That translates to a raise of about $13 an hour dated back to December. The Fund would be fully federally-funded, and would also include a $15,000 recruitment incentive to attract needed workers to high-risk frontline jobs.
“So many people are working hard and performing essential duties to help our communities confront this pandemic, and they deserve to be compensated for their dedication,” Peters said in a statement. “This proposal not only addresses the financial needs of these essential workers, it also presses for additional protective gear and other measures that will help ensure they can continue to perform their critical roles while protecting their health and safety.”
As of April 6, over 1,500 workers at Beaumont Health tested positive for the coronavirus, reports Bridge. That included 500 nurses. At the same time, more than 700 employees at the Henry Ford Health System also tested positive. Michigan is one of the hardest-hit states overall, but in particular ranks highly among states whose medical professionals have contracted the virus according to reporting by BuzzFeed.
And in too many situations, those medical professionals have to do their job lacking personal protective equipment to help prevent infection. As the Gander reported, family members of nurses live in a state of fear about the dangers faced by these frontline workers.
“It’s not a question of if we’re going to get COVID, it’s a question of when, because we’re just not protected with our normal standard precautions we’re supposed to take,” one nurse told BuzzFeed. “Our normal protocol for anything like this, it’s called modified droplet precautions, you wear a mask and a special gown into the room and gloves. You either wear plastic glasses with the mask or a mask with a face shield. Our normal policy is to throw away the mask after every use. And now we use it for the full 12 hours, which is not sanitary.”
The Heroes Fund would give employers like Beaumont and Henry Ford control over the disbursement of the hazard pay, but those employers would need to account for the disbursement and return any money not given to workers to the government. The proposal would also give financial assistance to families of essential workers who die as a result of the coronavirus.
Peters and his colleagues in the Senate are pressing for the fund to be included in phase four relief legislation, though as The Hill reports that legislation has stalled.
While Democrats have been working to prepare the next wave of relief, Republicans caution that a new phase of relief legislation is unlikely to pass before May.