Waste collection industry asks Congress to secure PPE for workers

Waste collection industry asks Congress to secure PPE for workers
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The waste collection industry — an essential service operating during the coronavirus pandemic — is calling for Congress to help access personal protective equipment (PPE) for its workers. 

The National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) wrote a letter to Congress on Tuesday asking for the next coronavirus relief package to provide 250,000 units of PPE for the industry.

The letter called the lack of access to PPE “troubling” because workers are at “extremely high risk of possible exposure.” NWRA hired the lobbying firm The Vogel Group to assist the group with its request.

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“Every day the employees in our industry perform their duties even though they are at an elevated risk of infection,” NWRA CEO Darrell K. Smith wrote.

However, timing for the relief package is up in the air.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Ernst: Renaming Confederate bases is the 'right thing to do' despite 'heck' from GOP Advocacy groups pressure Senate to reconvene and boost election funding MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Republicans are pausing talks on a fifth coronavirus relief bill to evaluate the other bills' impact. By contrast, House Democrats are preparing to vote on a potential fifth bill as soon as next week. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is providing face coverings to infrastructure workers, first responders and food producers and allocated 4.5 million cloth facial coverings weekly for non-priority infrastructure sections, including waste workers. 

“Now, we are forced to compete for the remaining 4.5 million weekly allocated PPE at the state level with other industries not facing the high-risk exposure that we are,” Smith wrote.

The industry is calling on FEMA to “officially clarify” that its workers are considered “essential critical infrastructure workers.”

NWRA also asked that Congress create a program where specified essential infrastructure public works services, including waste and recycling collection, can submit unpaid contracts that have resulted in unrecoverable customer debt for the government's consideration of payment.

“The last thing the country needs at this point is a sanitation crisis. Addressing both of these issues in the next COVID-19 economic support package (Phase IV) is paramount to our continuing to service our neighborhoods and communities,” Smith wrote.