Essential workers on the frontlines aren’t doing so well. What message will it send if most white-collar workers are sent to the backlines for safety while mostly blue-collar workers are asked—actually damn near ordered—to stay on the frontlines where they are certainly putting themselves and their families at greater risk of contracting coronavirus?
Yesterday a client asked about my company, my team and my family. I answered that all is well on my end. I answered that all of us are safe and explained that things were running smoothly after some earlier adjustments. I answered that remote work and technological options were helping us to stay safe, deliver services and conduct business. But I shared the profound sadness I feel about those who are dying and being hit hardest by this pandemic. I shared the distress I feel when I think of essential frontline workers who risk their health, safety and lives every single day to ensure that each of us can continue to do well, protect our families, live our lives and run our businesses.
We appreciate you, but should we really pay you?
More importantly, I expressed discontent with the fact that, as a country, we keep celebrating essential workers (the so-called heroes), but the country hasn’t yet passed even one bill to pay these employees more. Some of us are tipping more. We donate more, and we applaud as they walk by. We even share social media clips of people clapping and whistling as they begin and end their shifts, but we haven’t done one thing as a country to mourn the dead, and we haven’t done one damn thing as a nation to truly honor our heroes. Basically, the message being sent to essential workers is that we appreciate you; we are grateful to you; we truly thank you—but we might never pay you.
Key proposal details: The Patriot Pay plan.
But there’s still hope. Some in Congress are pushing to change this situation. Last month, Senator Schumer championed the Heroes Fund proposal that, if passed, would provide up to $25,000 for essential workers. And now, Senator Romney has put forward a proposal to provide up to $1,920 a month and max out $5,760 after three months.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah (Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The Washington Post via Getty Images
This new Senate proposal is officially called Patriot Pay. It presents a plan to provide hazard pay compensation for essential workers—employees on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Mitt Romney unveiled this proposal Friday, May 1.
If Patriot Pay passes as outlined today, essential workers would receive a pay raise of up to $12 per hour for the three-month period of May, June and July. These monies would be provided above and beyond their regular wages or salary income. Here are more details:
- A full-time essential employee could get as much as $1,920 per month for three months and would max out at $5,760 total throughout the three- month period.
- This proposal is for essential employees who earn $90,000 per year or less.
- The amount you could get varies depending on earnings. For example, those earning less than $50,000 per year would receive up to $12 more per hour, but those who earn between $50,000 and $90,000 per year would receive an hourly bonus of an amount below $12.
- Basically the more you earn, the less hourly bonus you’d qualify for. The max bonus would be $12 per hour.
- The extra hourly income would be funded partly by the employer and the government with the employer funding 1/3 of it and the government funding 2/3 of the bonus payment.
- To be eligible, essential workers must work a minimum of 100 hours in a given month.
- Congress and the Department of Labor would decide which workers and industries are deemed “essential” for eligibility purposes. Right now, Romney’s proposal indicates that essential workers would include hospitals, food distributors and processors and health manufacturers. However, it would not be limited to those workers. Decisions still need to be made on this.
- Romney provides this example for how the plan would work: “A grocery store in Provo, UT could opt into Patriot Pay to give their workers a $12/hour bonus. The employer would contribute $3, while the federal benefit would add $9, meaning a $10/hour worker would receive a $5,760 bonus from May 1 through the end of July. The grocery store worker’s weekly paycheck would include an extra $480.”
Will Patriot Pay become law?
As with all congressional proposals, it remains to be seen. COVID-19 is hitting hard, but we can’t deny that it’s hitting some of us harder than others. Essential workers are experiencing more pain and more suffering. Essential workers risk more than most of us. These employees are simply being asked to give more.
An earlier (and still pending) proposal to deliver hazard pay to essential workers is part of the Heroes Fund. It is a democrat-led proposal and calls for up to $25,000 for frontline essential workers. When you consider that proposal with this new Patriot Pay plan, a republican-led proposal calling for up to $5,760, it does appear that Congress just might come together and pass something for frontline workers.
The good news is that members on both sides of the isle are calling for some form of hazard pay or premium pay bonus for essential workers. Some on both sides indicate a desire to compensate these employees for the added burdens, risks and sacrifices they endure. Here are quotes from two key senators to demonstrate their commitment.
Regarding the Patriot Pay Plan:
“Patriot Pay is a way for us to reward our essential workers as they continue to keep Americans safe, healthy, and fed.” – Senator Romney (R – UT)
Regarding the Heroes Fund:
Getting hazard pay approved in the next phase relief bill “is one of our very highest priorities.” – Senator Schumer (D – NY)
Are we really all in this together?
The only—absolutely only—reason that most of us in society continue to do well is because essential workers are bearing the brunt of this pandemic. We talk about how we’re all in this together, but we don’t all suffer the same consequences and pain that COVID-19 inflicts. To put it bluntly, essential workers are being asked to do more. Most of us continue to feel safe because essential workers don’t get to feel safe. Most of us have toilet paper and food because essential workers continue to work and put their lives at risk. And some feel free to complain and even protest about staying home because they trust that if they do indeed get ill, essential workers will be waiting on staff at a medical facility and ready to risk their lives to save others.
To read more on the topics of essential workers, stimulus payments or unemployment, consider these.
- Up To $25,000 Hazard Pay For Essential Workers ‘One Of Our Very Highest Priorities’
- Senate Proposal: Up To $25,000 Pay Raise For These Essential Workers
- IRS Sends Stimulus Checks To 88 Million People. Here’s A State-By-State Breakdown
- Watch: Employees Speechless After Getting Up To $9,000 Bonus Checks
- 16% Unemployment This Summer: CBO’s Prediction And How To Prepare For It
- Suspend Your Mortgage Payment And Keep Your Home With COVID-19 Forbearance
- The $2,000 Vs. The $1,200 Stimulus Check: Four Key Payment Differences