Essential Workers Compensation Fund Proposed by Lawmakers
Over 1,622,000 people have been infected by Covid-19 in the United States as of the end of May 2020. While much needed attention has focused on the illness itself, dealing with how to keep the country running has also been of concern to lawmakers from every state. Essential workers have played a significant role in that effort.
The Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act for Essential Workers
A bipartisan coalition of members of Congress has proposed a compensation fund to assist essential workers that was inspired by the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. The proposed bill would create a compensation fund for essential workers and their family members who have contracted the coronavirus.
The bill, known as the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act, was announced by Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., at a digital news conference. Representatives from the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, Uniformed Firefighters Association, National Rural Letter Carriers Association, and SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers joined them in the announcement.
What the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act Proposes
The Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act would create a compensation fund for essential workers and their families whose jobs required them to report to the workplace even in the face of country-wide stay-at-home orders.
The bill authorizes appropriated funds as needed for five years, to be overseen by a special master. The funds would provide essential workers compensation to those who worked outside the home who become ill with Covid-19. It would also provide compensation for family members who contracted the coronavirus through contact with essential workers.
Government Officials Line up to Praise Essential Workers
Representative Carolyn Mahoney (D-NY) pointed out that on September 11, firefighters and officers ran into burning buildings to save lives. She equates these heroic acts with those of the numerous hospital workers, including nurses, doctors, EMS, janitorial staff, pharmacists, technicians and other essential workers who care for infected patients, at considerable risk to themselves.
Representative Peter King (R-NY) had championed health benefits for September 11 first responders alongside Maloney and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY). He referred to the fund to be created by the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act as morally essential. King further stated that America will forever be indebted to first responders and essential workers who put their lives on the line during the pandemic.
Concern for Essential Workers
Debates have sometimes been heated about the best way to support essential workers who are often overworked and underpaid. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle understand that it is these very essential workers who have kept the country running even as stay-at-home orders have allowed most Americans to remain safely at home. There is grave concern, however, about essential workers seemingly being treated as expendable while at the same time characterizing them as heroes, and their work as a noble sacrifice that needs no added reward. Perhaps the most telling example can be seen in widespread reports of essential workers, in both medical and nonmedical fields, who do not have access to adequate protective equipment to keep themselves and others from contracting the coronavirus.
In fact, a recent survey of essential workers in western Massachusetts conducted by UMass Amherst disclosed that a mere 20% of these workers receive hazard pay during the pandemic. Additionally, over half of the reporting healthcare workers and slightly more than two-thirds of the reporting grocery and retail workers admitted that they do not feel safe at work. Their concern is in large part due to the risks of exposure and lack of proper protective equipment.
Essential Workers Compensation May Hit Roadblocks
With bipartisan backing, the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act may have a good chance of getting broad support from both Republicans and Democrats. But there may be some roadblocks ahead. The House Democrats have already proposed a $200 billion “Heroes Fund” to get much-needed hazard pay to essential workers as part of the Heroes Act. Plus, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has asked for a moratorium on approving further relief legislation.
There is little argument that essential workers are often overlooked and underpaid in our society. This fact is even more obvious today, as these same workers assume personal risks to themselves and their families. As essential workers attempt to save lives and take the risks of delivering the crucial services that are essential in the face of the pandemic, it is only fair that they receive compensation commensurate with their sacrifice.
Long Beach Workers Compensation Lawyers
The Long Beach office of Cantrell Green represents many clients who perform essential services. We watch with interest what the government, both at state and national levels, is doing to protect them and compensate them. As the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act progresses, we will continue to monitor how it might serve to benefit our clients, and specifically how it might provide essential workers with additional compensation.
If you have any questions about this article or need assistance in determining what additional sources of compensation might be available, feel free to give our attorneys a call for a consultation.
Your consultation with our workers’ compensation lawyers is 100% confidential, and neither your employer nor your insurance company will be notified that you requested a consultation with us. Our lawyers will help you understand your rights and work tirelessly to ensure that you receive the maximum workers’ comp benefits for which you qualify.