US: Democrats propose $25,000 pay for essential workers

By Beyza Binnur Donmez

ANKARA (AA) – Democrats in the U.S. Senate proposed $25,000 hazard pay for essential workers amid the coronavirus outbreak.

"Essential frontline workers are the true heroes of America’s COVID-19 pandemic response," Senate Democrats said in the proposal document published Tuesday.

"Senate Democrats believe in providing premium pay to frontline workers during this pandemic to reward essential frontline workers, ensure the retention of essential workers who are working grueling hours on the frontlines of this crisis, and promote the recruitment of additional workers who will be needed in the months ahead."

"As the Congress looks at a potential fourth COVID-19 bill, the following proposal is meant for consideration by Members of Congress, key stakeholders, and the American people," they urged.

The bill called Heroes Fund offers a $25,000 pandemic premium pay increase for essential frontline workers, equivalent to a raise of an additional $13 per hour from the start of the public health emergency until Dec. 31, and a $15,000 recruitment incentive for health and home care workers and first responders to attract and secure the workforce needed to fight the public health crisis.

The payment would cap the total maximum premium pay at $25,000 for each essential frontline worker earning less than $200,000 per year and $5,000 for those earning $200,000 or more per year, according to the document.

Also, employers and employees who contract directly with the state, locality, Tribe, or the federal government and designated as essential workers "would be eligible for premium pay."

"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," Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said during the presentation of the proposal through a conference call, cited by U.S. news outlet The Hill.

"And so are people not in the medical profession but in essential services: grocery store workers, truck drivers, drug store workers and pharmacists," Schumer said. "For these Americans, working from home is not an option. Social distancing is not an option."

"We're calling it a Heroes Fund because that’s who it's for, our heroes," he emphasized.

Earlier on Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the Democratic leadership will seek a fourth package of coronavirus emergency aid after the Congress members return to work on April 20 at a time when pressure is building on Congress to pass another coronavirus relief package.

Despite Democratic haste, Republicans think a fourth bill before May is unlikely.

The U.S. has the highest number of confirmed virus cases worldwide — nearly 400,000, according to the data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. Almost 13,000 fatalities have been recorded, while more than 22,500 people recovered.

Overall, the virus has spread to 184 countries, infecting at least 1.44 million people since it first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.