‘HEROES FUND’: FDNY EMTs and Paramedics could be in line to receive extra pay under a proposal by U.S. Senate Democrats. The plan, unveiled by Senator Chuck Schumer and others April 7, would grant a $25,000 premium-pay increase for essential workers during the coronavirus crisis.

Senate Democrats on April 7 introduced a proposal that would increase pay to “essential front-line workers” during the coronavirus crisis to ensure their retention, as well as secure funding to attract workers as the nation continues to battle the pandemic.

The Senators’ plan would increase pay to both retain and recruit doctors, nurses, law-enforcement personnel, transit workers, truck drivers and others. 

The so-called “Heroes Fund” would secure upward of a $25,000 premium-pay boost for a category of essential workers. It also would include a $15,000 incentive to attract health- and home-care workers and first-responders.

Federal Workers Included

The proposal by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), supported by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tom Udall (D-NM) and Gary Peters (D-MI), will be among several competing for Federal funds in a fourth iteration of a COVID-19-related stimulus package, as Congress looks to kick-start the economy, ease rising unemployment and alleviate financial hardships for millions.

“Thousands of workers report to the front lines of our nation’s pandemic response each and every day, placing themselves squarely in harm’s way to serve the needs of others,” Senator Schumer said in a statement tied to the release of the proposal. “Essential front-line workers sacrifice daily for our collective health and well-being, and Senate Democrats are fully committed to supplying these heroes the financial support they deserve.”

If enacted, the Democrats’ proposal would give each “essential-front-line” worker a $13-an-hour raise for time worked in essential industries through the end of the year. That raise would be capped at $25,000 for workers earning less than $200,000 and $5,000 for workers earning $200,000 or more. 

To ease recruitment of first-responders, health-care workers and home-care workers needed in the coming months, the fund would allocate a one-time $15,000 bonus to workers signing on to do essential work.

Who's Eligible

Eligibility for the premium would be limited to those entities that have staffing shortages that would otherwise prevent them from providing care during the pandemic.

The proposal would also allocate $25,000 premium-pay benefits to all essential Federal front-line workers, including Title 5 employees and employees of all other Federal personnel systems, such as the Postal Service, the Transportation Security Administration, the Veterans Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration. 

The Democrats, who couched their plan as a “consideration” and not as essential legislation, said they would seek input on several aspects of the proposal, including which workers would qualify and how to best deliver the pay to them. 

Mr. Schumer said the Federal fund, should it be enacted, would work with entities designated as “eligible employers,” such as states, local entities, tribes and some private-sector employers, to deliver the raises and the premium payments. The raises and bonuses would be retroactive to the start of the crisis in late January.  

How It Would Work

As envisioned, the proposal would identify employers in industries doing “essential work” who would then apply to the program for funds. Employers would be responsible for tracking payments and accounting, and would be required to return unspent funds. 

Another provision would permit employers of front-line health- and home-care workers and first-responders to apply for a second round of premium-pay funds of up to $10,000. The Democrats also suggested that families of essential workers who succumbed to the virus "rightfully deserve" the full amount of the premium pay as a lump sum.

The benefit would be limited to front-line and public-facing positions and not those who are teleworking from home.

Although the Democrats recognized that large corporations providing essential services and goods also employ essential front-line workers who might be deserving of premium pay,  they said that those entities should first seek to provide similar pay adjustments and bonuses before they anticipate applying for the funds.

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