Senate Democrats propose $25,000 hazard-pay plan for essential workers

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerJacobin editor: Primarying Schumer would force him to fight Trump's SCOTUS nominee CNN's Toobin: Democrats are 'wimps' who won't 'have the guts' to add Supreme Court seats Republican senator says plans to confirm justice before election 'completely consistent with the precedent' MORE (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats are proposing to give doctors, nurses and other essential workers, such as grocery store clerks, up to $25,000 in hazard pay as part of the phase four coronavirus relief bill.

The bonus pay, which would amount to a $13-per-hour raise, would also go to truck drivers and janitors, who Democrats say are also essential to keeping the health care system and economy running during the crisis.

It would stretch from the start of the public health emergency to the end of the year.

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“As the COVID pandemic has reached alarming new levels, our health care system is strained to the max, our economy is strained to the max. Doctors and nurses, medical personnel of all types are putting their lives on the line every single day to fight this disease and save others,” Schumer said on a conference call introducing the proposal.

“And so are people not in the medical profession but in essential services: grocery store workers, truck drivers, drug store workers and pharmacists,” Schumer said. “For these Americans, working from home is not an option. Social distancing is not an option.”

“We’re calling it a ‘Heroes Fund’ because that’s who it’s for, our heroes,” he added.

The Democratic leader clarified the hazard pay would apply retroactively “to those already working on the front lines.”

The benefit would be capped at $25,000 for workers earning less than $200,000 per year and at $5,000 for those earning more than $200,000.

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The Heroes Fund would provide funding directly to eligible employers so they could then distribute the premium payments.

Employers would be required to track payments and return unspent funds to the federal government.

Workers for entities that contract directly with state, local and tribal governments and deemed essential would also be eligible for hazard benefits.  

The proposal would provide benefits to the families of essential workers who have died as a result of COVID-19.

Schumer talked about one New York doctor who has to get changed in his garage after each workday, put his clothes in a trash bag to be disinfected and take a shower before saying hello to his family.

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Democrats are also proposing an essential worker recruitment incentive payment of $15,000 to attract and keep doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, many of whom have had to work long hours in tough conditions, on the job.

“We need to retain and recruit the workforce needed for the long months to come,” Schumer said.

Democratic Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayTrump health officials grilled over reports of politics in COVID-19 response CDC director pushes back on Caputo claim of 'resistance unit' at agency The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Pence lauds Harris as 'experienced debater'; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep MORE (Wash.), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallLWCF modernization: Restoring the promise OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats tee up vote on climate-focused energy bill next week | EPA reappoints controversial leader to air quality advisory committee | Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' Senate Democrats demand White House fire controversial head of public lands agency MORE (N.M.), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySecond GOP senator to quarantine after exposure to coronavirus GAO report finds brokers offered false info on coverage for pre-existing conditions Catholic group launches .7M campaign against Biden targeting swing-state voters MORE (Pa.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownBipartisan praise pours in after Ginsburg's death Emboldened Democrats haggle over 2021 agenda Hillicon Valley: Russia 'amplifying' concerns around mail-in voting to undermine election | Facebook and Twitter take steps to limit Trump remarks on voting | Facebook to block political ads ahead of election MORE (Ohio) and Gary PetersGary Charles PetersBiden's six best bets in 2016 Trump states GOP set to release controversial Biden report Democrats fear Russia interference could spoil bid to retake Senate MORE (Mich.) are cosponsors of the plan.

The lawmakers are pushing for the proposal to be included in the phase four coronavirus relief bill Congress will negotiate after returning to work the week of April 20.

--This report was updated on April 8 at 1:22 p.m.