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

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJudd Gregg: Biden — a path to the presidency, or not Montana barrels toward blockbuster Senate fight Federal judges should be allowed to be Federalist Society members 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 MurrayCOVID-19 workplace complaints surge; unions rip administration Lack of child care poses major hurdle as businesses reopen Democratic leaders say Trump testing strategy is 'to deny the truth' about lack of supplies MORE (Wash.), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallKey races to watch in Tuesday's primaries DHS watchdog to investigate COVID-19 cases in ICE detention facilities Hispanic Caucus makes major ad buy for New Mexico Democratic candidate for House MORE (N.M.), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyOvernight Health Care: Trump says US 'terminating' relationship with WHO | Cuomo: NYC on track to start reopening week of June 8 | COVID-19 workplace complaints surge 10 things to know today about coronavirus The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Twitter says Trump violates rules with 'shooting' threat MORE (Pa.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownHillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump tweet for 'glorifying violence' | Cruz calls for criminal investigation into Twitter over alleged sanctions violations | Senators urge FTC to investigate TikTok child privacy issues Democratic senators urge regulators to investigate Instacart over 'tip baiting' Senate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers MORE (Ohio) and Gary PetersGary Charles PetersComey, Rice, Clapper among GOP senator's targets for subpoenas amid Obama-era probe GOP chairman to seek subpoena power in investigation of Russia probe, 'unmasking' requests Michigan GOP candidate's Senate petition deemed 'insufficient' over signatures 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.