The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), one of the top construction unions in the country, is urging Congress to subsidize the costs of health care for construction workers who may be laid off due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Specifically, the union wants Congress to buffer the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), which gives workers the ability to retain health coverage in the event that they lose their jobs.
“The construction industry is the backbone of the US economy," Ken Rigmaiden, IUPAT general president, said in a statement. "If Congress fails to take additional steps to support blue-collar construction workers, the short term and long term consequences will be dire for every industry.
"Supporting construction workers begins with ensuring they have access to medical care and prescriptions by shoring up the health coverage that thousands are losing every day as layoffs sweep across the industry," he continued.
The IUPAT estimates that 50 percent of U.S. construction sites have been shut down, and that number could rise to 90 percent. The union said that there are currently 11 million construction workers in the country.
Numerous states have issued stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders for their residents because of the pandemic, but in many cases, construction work has been deemed essential and continued.
However, some cities such as San Francisco, Boston and New York have halted construction that isn't crucial to fighting COVID-19.
Last week, the AFL-CIO issued a similar statement, imploring Congress to cover the cost of COBRA plans for unemployed workers.