Nearly a week ago, the House passed The Heroes Act which provides $200 billion in hazard pay funding for essential workers, among many other things. Hazard pay questions are now flying in just as they did with the topic of the second stimulus check. Here are the facts on seven key areas for essential workers and hazard pay. We’re just going to dive right in with the facts.
1. Did the House really pass hazard pay for essential workers?
Yes. The House passed a bill that includes $200 billion in funding to provide hazard pay for essential workers. Actually the bill officially refers to the pay for essential workers as “pandemic premium pay.”
Here’s the deal: The House passed a $3 trillion stimulus relief package on Friday, May 15; it’s called The Heroes Act. It includes a provision for essential workers’ hazard pay in the amount of $200 billion. The bill also provides for several other things including $1 trillion for state, local and tribal governments so they can pay “vital workers like first responders, health workers, and teachers” who are at risk of losing their jobs due to budget shortfalls. Other things are in the bill too: a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks, six more months of COVID-19 unemployment, housing and food assistance, money for the U.S. Postal Service, etc. are all in it. You can check out what’s included in The Heroes Act here.
Now that the House has passed hazard pay for essential workers, it is presenting the bill to the Senate, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi is urging the Senate to take up the bill and begin negotiations immediately.
2. Is hazard pay dead on arrival in the Senate?
Not necessarily. Sure, Senate Republicans did say that this specific bill (The Heroes Act) is dead on arrival because they don’t like several things that Democrats included in it, but they didn’t say that they’re against hazard pay, and they didn’t say that they’re against another stimulus bill. It’s actually quite the contrary. Republicans acknowledge they will likely have to negotiate something with the House in order to do more to help the economy. In fact, just six days ago, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News, “I think there’s a high likelihood we’ll do another bill.”
The best thing to do now is simply ignore all the bluster and noise coming out of Congress as the partisan bickering occurs. Right now, Senate Republicans are putting out what they won’t do and indicating that they won’t pass anything. Ignore this. This is what both parties due when setting the stage for negotiations. It’s a negotiation tactic used to bring one party closer to your side of the line.
Right now, all signs point to another stimulus relief package of some kind getting passed through Congress. Whether or not hazard pay makes it through the negotiation process remains to be seen, but some Republicans have expressed that they might get on board with hazard pay for essential workers.
3. How much hazard pay would essential workers receive?
Essential workers would get either $10,000 or $5,000 in hazard pay if the provision passes as it currently stands in The Heroes Act. This money would be paid retroactively back to January 27, 2020, with essential workers receiving a lump-sum payment at the start of the program for all hours worked back to January. After this, hazard pay would be included with regular payroll/paychecks and would be distributed as a $13 an hour pay raise or bonus of sorts that essential workers would continue to receive in their checks until they reach their $10,000 or $5,000 limit or until 60 days after the COVID-19 pandemic ends, whichever comes first.
4. What are the income requirements?
Essential workers whose regular basic pay is less than $200,000 per year are eligible to receive the maximum $10,000 hazard pay premium. Essential workers whose basic pay is $200,000 or more per year are eligible to receive a maximum $5,000 hazard pay premium. Employers will be permitted to deduct payroll taxes from all hazard pay premium payments that it transfers to employees.
5. How would essential workers sign up for hazard pay?
Actually, employers are the ones who need to apply to receive hazard pay grant funds. If approved, they are then required to pay essential workers accordingly.
After an employer becomes an “essential work employer,” it will be obligated to provide hazard pay (pandemic premium pay) to its essential workers. As stated above, essential workers would be awarded a sort of back pay bonus for all hours worked back to January 27 and then the program would continue with regular deposits to the essential worker’s payroll.
6. What about the $25,000 hazard pay proposal? Is that still happening?
Well, yes—that is the proposal the House just passed. The $25,000 hazard pay proposal calls for essential workers to be paid a $13 an hour hazard pay bonus until the employee receives “up to” $25,000 total in hazard pay. Up to $25,000 includes amounts below $25,000 so the $10,000 fits within it. What got passed last week does provide the $13 per hour hazard pay bonus for essential workers, but it maxes out at $10,000 instead of $25,000 because that is the highest amount that could get passed in the House.
Remember though, this is not law yet. While it did pass the first hurdle by getting a thumbs up in the House, it must now go to the Senate. The good thing is that some Republican Senators have already expressed a desire to fund hazard pay for essential workers. Senator Mitt Romney actually put forward his own hazard pay proposal for essential workers.
The question now is whether the Senate will agree to sign on with it, modify it in negotiations or completely shut it down. Time will tell.
7. Which essential workers are eligible?
The Heroes Act details quite a comprehensive list of essential workers on pages 1534, line 13 through 1547 of the bill. But basically it defines essential workers as mostly public-facing workers who deliver essential services. Essential workers who work from home are not eligible.
Take note: The following list does not include all essential workers by any means. Also, each state government will have the final say on who gets approved for hazard pay if The Heroes Act does end up becoming law. Here are some of the most common essential workers.
- doctors, nurses and other frontline medical personnel such as nurse aides and assistants, infection control, laboratory personnel, direct-care and home-care workers; those who work in nursing homes and with elderly or disabled including home-health providers
- biomedical workers, infectious disease researchers and scientists
- maintenance workers, and janitors, housekeepers, sanitarians; sanitation and pest control workers who support food manufacturing processes, etc.
- mortuary professionals and those who handle, recover or otherwise deal with the dead; funeral, cremation, burial, cemetery workers, etc.
- police officers, firefighters, emergency medical services (EMS), and other security and safety personnel with higher-levels of public interaction
- social workers and others who must be on the frontlines to work with abused and neglected individuals as well as teachers who must interact with students in a front-facing role (those who must hold in-person classes)
- grocery clerks and retail workers who support getting food, beverage and other critical products to humans and animals; restaurant workers, food manufacturers and suppliers
- agriculture, seafood and meat harvesters, producers, etc.; farmers and other corresponding roles such as rancher
- postal workers and other transportation and delivery workers who support agriculture or deliver essential goods and products
- childcare workers, cafeteria workers and others who must necessarily support the ability of other essential workers to be able to work.
Again, by no means is this list exhaustive. You can view the bill here to see a more comprehensive list.