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Rep. Cartwright Unveils Hazard Pay Proposal for Essential Workers on Front Lines of COVID-19 Fight

Apr 21, 2020
Press Release
Coronavirus Frontline Workers Fair Pay Act boosts high-risk health care workers pay by up to $35,000; up to $25,000 for other essential employees

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-08) today unveiled the Coronavirus Frontline Workers Fair Pay Act, a proposal to provide hazard pay to health care professionals and other essential workers. The bill compensates workers for the risks they are taking and for the public services they are providing during this unprecedented public health and economic emergency.

Under Cartwright’s proposal, high-risk health care workers receive a hazard pay increase of $18.50 per hour, and other essential workers receive an increase of $13 per hour. Pay would be capped at $35,000 and $25,000, respectively. It would be retroactive to January 31, 2020 and would be available through the end of this year.

During a video press conference this afternoon with health care advocates and Pennsylvania labor leaders, Cartwright said providing hazard pay is key to rewarding the brave Americans who are saving lives and keeping core parts of our economy running.

“Grocery store, mail delivery, health care, and distribution center employees continue to report for duty, in order to provide our communities with life-sustaining services during this crisis,” said Rep. Cartwright during the press conference. “There’s a lot that needs to be done for our caregivers and essential workers, but securing hazard pay for those in harm’s way is the least we can do.”

Cartwright was joined in the event by Leslie Dach, Chair of Protect Our Care; Matt Yarnell, President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania; and Michele Kessler, Secretary Treasurer of UFCW Local 1776. Each spoke in support of Cartwright’s proposal and discussed the challenges and risks that caregivers and other employees doing essential jobs face amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our frontline health care workers who work in hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics — and essential workers who stock the shelves, check us out at the grocery store, and deliver our mail — they deserve a fair, equitable, and living wage for the work they do. And that isn’t what’s happening here today,” Dach said. “These workers are the ones waking up, suiting up and fighting this war on behalf of all of us. As Congress completes its attention on the bill that may be voted on this week and moves to the next COVID response bill, we hope that if not before, that certainly then, the bill that Congressman Cartwright is talking about today will become a part of that package.”

“In this moment, it’s going to take an act like this to have the backs of workers who are thrust into the most challenging situations they’ve been in during their careers,” Yarnell said. “They need to be assured that if they get sick, they will have access to care. They need to be assured that they are paid a living wage, or, frankly, essential worker pay, in order to keep people in their jobs and make sure we have our arms around the people who are going to save us from this pandemic.”

“These workers understand the obligation they have to take care of their fellow citizens, and they have taken on this burden in such a meaningful way,” Kessler said. “Without question, this is a great bill in terms of recognizing the workers — not only our union workers, but also the non-union workers who often don’t have a voice in the workplace.”

Watch the full press conference video here.

Under this proposal:

  • High-risk health care workers would receive a flat rate hazard pay increase of $18.50 an hour, capped at $35,000 for workers earning less than $200,000 annually and $15,000 for workers earning over $200,000 annually.
  • Other essential workers would receive a flat rate hazard pay increase of $13 an hour, capped at $25,000 for workers earning less than $200,000 annually and $5,000 for those earning over $200,000 annually.
  • Telework hours are not covered.
  • The hazard pay timeline is January 31, 2020 - December 31, 2020.
  • Essential workers” and “high risk health care workers” would be eligible to receive back pay from January 31, 2020.
  • Self-employed individuals and independent contractors would be eligible for hazard pay.
  • Failure by employers to pay eligible employees the proper hazard pay amount would be treated as a violation of section 6 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. 206).

More information on the definitions of “high-risk health care worker” and essential worker” can be found in the summary here.