Senate Democrats Unveil COVID-19"
Proposed COVID-19 "
Essential frontline workers are the true heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic response in America.
A Summary of
"Thousands of workers report to the frontlines of our nation's pandemic response each and every day, placing themselves squarely in harm's way to serve the needs of others," said Leader Schumer. "
"The frontline workers who are literally putting their lives on the line every single day to keep us healthy, keep us fed, and to keep us safe--deserve our most profound gratitude. But we all know that gratitude isn't enough," said
"Workers in hospitals and nursing homes, in the service sector and public safety, and throughout our economy are risking their lives during this public health emergency to keep our citizens safe, and their paychecks should reflect that. Frontline workers also need proper protection from the virus at work, said
"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," said
"Essential frontline workers in
"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," said
The COVID-19 "
Essential frontline workers are the true heroes of America's COVID-19 pandemic response.
Structure of the Pandemic Premium Pay
To meet the goals of reward, retention, and recruitment, we propose a set dollar amount per hour with a maximum amount for the year, for a definite duration, and with an additional bonus for workers who sign up to do such essential work during this crisis.
Amount of Pay Premium. Our proposal--
*Uses a flat-dollar amount per hour premium model in order to ensure it is clear, simple, and lifts up particularly those workers making lower wages.
*Would give each essential frontline worker
*Would cap the total maximum premium pay at
Duration of Premium. The premium pay period--
*Must be for a specified and clear duration of time to ensure workers can rely on it for their economic security and plan for needs like additional child care.
*Should cover all hours worked by each essential frontline worker through
Premium Pay as a Recruitment and Retention Incentive. In order to recruit the additional health care workers, home care workers, and first responders needed over the coming months, our proposal--
*Would provide a one-time
*Would limit eligibility for this incentive premium to essential health and home care workers and first responders that are experiencing severe staffing shortages impeding the ability to provide care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premium Pay and Worker Incentives Delivery Mechanism
Our proposal would fully federally-fund the premium pay and recruitment and retention incentive. We will continue to seek input on the specific mechanism for delivering the pay to workers, as well as the universe of "essential workers" to be covered. The new federal fund would partner with entities designated as an "eligible employer" - states, localities, tribes, and certain private sector employers - to issue the funds premium payments to eligible workers. Frontline federal employees would also be granted the new benefit of up to
*Employers in industries engaged in "essential work" would apply to the
*No employer would be required to participate, but all would be strongly encouraged to and the program would be widely advertised.
*An entity that contracts directly with the state, locality, Tribe, or the federal government (e.g., to provide care to people with Medicare and Medicaid coverage) would be considered a private sector employer, and employees of this entity who are designated as "essential" would be eligible for premium pay. Similarly, an eligible employer is also an individual who hires someone designated as "essential" through programs established through the State (e.g., self-directed care arrangements). This would help ensure coverage of the 2.2 million home health aides, direct service providers, and personal care workers who provide services to more than 12 million Americans.
*Eligible employers would submit applications for the recruitment and retention incentive premium on a rolling basis.
Federal Workforce. Our proposal would ensure all federal government essential frontline employees receive the same
*Coverage should be expansive to capture all federal employees with public-facing positions. This includes Title 5 employees and employees of all other federal personnel systems (e.g., employees of the
*The benefit would be limited to frontline and public-facing positions - employees who are not teleworking from their homes.
Additional Background and Commentary
Precedents. Disasters require exceptional flexibility in standard work schedules and assignments and often put first responders and other essential workers in dangerous situations. To ensure this critical workforce is compensated appropriately, there are precedents for funding hazard premium pay and worker incentives through a federal program.
This authority has been used many times over the last few years to pay for personnel costs associated with enforcing curfews, facilitating evacuation routes, and restoring critical infrastructure. Past usage illustrates precedent for federal funding of critical state, local, and tribal employees performing essential response functions that keep our communities safe in times of disaster.
Essential Frontline Worker definitions. As mentioned above, the definition of essential frontline workers for purposes of both the premium pay increase and the recruitment-retention incentive will be the subject of debate. This proposal is not meant to exclude any worker from this conversation. Rather, we hope this proposal will encourage a discussion about how large and diverse this universe of workers truly is. Our goal is to make federal, state, tribal, local and private sector essential workers that are at risk eligible for this benefit.
Retroactive Pay. Workers who have been on the frontlines since the initial declaration of the Public Health Emergency on
Additional Benefits for
Death Benefits. It is a deeply disturbing but unfortunate reality that some of our frontline workers are making the ultimate sacrifice to the nation through their work fighting COVID-19. Their families rightfully deserve to receive the full amount of the premium pay as a lump sum in addition to all other forms of death benefits.
Protections from Corporate Expense Shifting. Certain large corporations engaged in the provision of essential services and goods employ essential frontline workers who are deserving of premium pay. However, massive corporations should make investments in providing premium pay of their own accord before trying to participate in this program.
Protecting Workers and PPE.
 The recruitment and retention incentive might need to cover a broader swathe of workers in Indian Country and other underserved areas that experienced high levels of essential frontline worker vacancies prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 Certain federal workers are entitled under current law to a maximum 25 percent hazard premium pay for exposure to hazardous substances, including virulent biologicals. However,
 Federally-funded Indian program employees include any employee who works for 1) program operated by an