Who is the hero?Some states and cities are still arguing about hazard pay

When the U.S. government allowed the payment of so-called hero wages for frontline workers as possible uses of pandemic relief funds, it proposed occupations ranging from farm workers and childcare workers to gatekeepers and truck drivers that could qualify.

State and local governments have been trying to determine who among the many workers who bravely faced the raging coronavirus pandemic before the vaccine is available should be eligible: only government workers or private employees? Should it be assigned to a small group of basic staff, such as nurses, or should it be distributed to others, including grocery store staff?

“This is a bad position for us, because your local government tries to pick winners and losers, if you want, or recipients and non-recipients. So, by default, what you say is important and unimportant ,” said Jason Levesque, the Republican Mayor of Auburn, Maine, where officials have not yet decided who will receive hazard pay from the city’s US Rescue Program Fund.

A year and a half after the pandemic, as the union lobbied to expand eligibility, such a decision had a political impact on some leaders, and eventually the excluded workers felt pain.

Ginny Ligi, a correctional officer who contracted COVID-19 in Connecticut last year, said: “It sounds like a money issue, but it’s a feeling of gratitude. During negotiations with the union, the bonus check there has not yet been cut.” It’s hard to express in words the real feelings of walking into that place every day, day after day. It makes us scarred. It’s true.”

Interim federal rules issued six months ago allow state and local COVID-19 recovery funds to be used to pay basic workers an additional $13 per hour, as well as their normal wages. The amount per employee must not exceed US$25,000.

The rule also allows grants to third-party employers with qualified workers who are defined as persons who “frequently interact face-to-face or often physically handle items that other people have also handled” or are exposed to increased risk to COVID-19.

The rule encourages state and local governments to “prioritize the provision of retroactive premiums when possible, recognize that many basic workers have not yet received additional compensation for months of work,” while also giving priority to low-income eligible workers.

According to the Associated Press review, as of July, about one-third of the states in the United States use federal COVID-19 relief assistance to reward workers deemed essential, even though they are eligible for bonuses and the amount they receive big difference.

The list of national appropriations for hazards and insurance premiums as of November 18 provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures shows that funds are usually reserved for government workers, such as state police and correctional officers.

In Minnesota, lawmakers still have $250 million in aid funds to pay hero salaries, but they have been thinking hard about how to allocate it. A special committee cannot propose a compromise plan, but instead submits two competing proposals to the entire legislature for deliberation.

Committee member and Republican Senator Mary Kiffmeyer said: “I think every time we spend another week, we are just delaying the whole process. I think the fastest way is to submit them to the legislature. .” Meeting last month.

Republicans in the Minnesota Senate hope to provide a tax-free bonus of $1,200 to approximately 200,000 workers who they believe bear the greatest risk. These workers include nurses, long-term care workers, prison staff, and first responders.

But House Democrats hope to allocate funds more broadly to provide approximately $375 for approximately 670,000 basic workers, including low-wage food service and grocery store employees, security guards, janitors, etc.

Earlier this week, after the political deadlock on another issue appeared to be easing, the Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hotman told Minnesota Public Radio that she believed that an agreement could be reached on the wages of front-line workers, noting that there was a The “very natural middle ground” is between duel proposals.

Connecticut has not paid any of the US$20 million in federal anti-epidemic funds allocated by state lawmakers in June for necessary state employees and members of the Connecticut National Guard.

As negotiations with union leaders continue, the Connecticut AFL-CIO labor organization has increased pressure on Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, who will be re-elected in 2022, asking him to provide basic workers in all public and private sectors with every Hazard pay of $1 per hour. Work during the pandemic before the vaccine is available.

“The governor needs to reassess his priorities and show that these workers who put themselves and their lives at risk are the top priority. I think this is really the least he can do for these workers,” Connecticut. AFL President Ed Hawthorne said-Chief Information Officer. “These workers showed up in Connecticut. Now is the time for the governor to show up for them.”

Max Reiss, a spokesperson for Lamont, said the figures cited by organized labor were “not feasible at all.”

At the same time, he said, the government is negotiating with the state employee union to classify the work done by state employees during the pandemic and determine whether they may have been transferred to other more or less risky duties, which may also be possible. Affect whether they get more or less money.

“We want to commend the workers who insist on working every day because they have to do it and have no choice. These people range from those who work in state-run medical institutions to those who need to plow the road in inclement weather and inclement weather. In person. Work,” he said. “The next part is that you have to determine who all these people are. And there is a verification process.”

In some states, such as California, cities are determining how to distribute some federal funds fairly to help important private-sector workers who may not receive extra wages from employers.

Rachel Torres, deputy in the political and civil rights department of the local 770 United Food and Commercial Workers Union, said her union is urging cities to follow the example of Oxnard and Calabasas. The two cities voted this year to Grocery store and pharmacy workers provide compensation up to $1,000.

“This really shouldn’t be a competition between basic labor. It should provide funding for many workers,” Torres said.

David Dobbs and his fellow firefighters in Bridgeport, Connecticut, are upset that their city has not yet provided them with a share of the $110 million received in the federal pandemic fund. Democratic Mayor Joe Gamin said in a statement that he supports the concept of premium payments, but is still reviewing the matter to ensure that any payments comply with federal regulations.

“We have shown our commitment to this partnership. And I think we now feel a bit betrayed by the city, when they don’t deal with us, when they get this windfall,” Bridgeport Chief Executive Dobbs said the Firefighters Association used to give up raises when the city’s budget was tight. “Imagine lending your friend a considerable amount of money, then playing powerball, and nothing will happen.”

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