Sen. Reed backing hazard pay for essential front-line workers


EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Essential front-line workers on the job during the coronavirus pandemic could soon see a salary increase.

Sen. Jack Reed spoke to Eyewitness News on Saturday about the “COVID-19 Heroes Fund” he’s backing along with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

The legislation would apply to a variety of front-line workers including nurses, grocery store employees, letter carriers and cleaning staff.

“We’ve asked countless Americans to step up in the face of personal danger and great discomfort and family stress to help us fight this battle against COVID-19. We need reward their literally courage, retain them and recruit more,” Reed said.

The proposal would provide a $25,000 hazard pay increase for those who make less than $200,000 a year, the equivalent of about $13 an hour; those who make more than $200,000 would be capped at an additional $5,000.

It also offers a $15,000 essential worker recruitment incentive to help attract and secure the workforce needed to combat COVID-19.

“The need is obviously there. Our efforts would be int he next major coronavirus bill we would go ahead and incorporate this provision,” Reed said.

Gov. Gina Raimondo on Saturday said that people out of work because of the coronavirus should see their extra $600 in unemployment benefits next week and added that front-line workers still on the job need some relief.

“I have also asked our federal delegation and am calling on congress to provide some kind of similar $600 benefit to low-wage essential workers who are still going to work to provide incentive to work and also to compensate for the fact it’s harder than ever now to be working in these essential businesses,” she said.

Sen. Reed said they are currently working to get bipartisan support right for the legislation. The U.S. Senate is expected to take up the bill when it returns to session, which is expected later this month.

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