MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Erie Times E-Edition Article- Hazard pay still being debated 

Posted by M. C. on November 29, 2021

Billions of dollars printed and sent to states to reward “essential” “heros”. Only big government and it’s unelected bureaucrats forgot to figure out who are essential heroes.

No probs, it’s only a couple hundred billion. Pocket change for foggy bottom. A plethora of commissions, committees and thousands of pages of rules, regs, enforcement and applicable penalties will undoubtedly clear it all up.

What about those of us who don’t make the cut. Non-essential, non-heroes, inconsequential chaff.

Expand this “forgot to figure out” scenario to multi trillion dollar build back better size.

https://erietimes-pa-app.newsmemory.com/?publink=5c060f703_1345fdd

Susan Haigh

ASSOCIATED PRESS

HARTFORD, Conn. – When the U.S. government allowed so-called hero pay for front-line workers as a possible use of pandemic relief money, it suggested occupations that could be eligible from farm workers and child care staff to janitors and truck drivers.

State and local governments have struggled to determine who among the many workers who braved the raging coronavirus pandemic before vaccines became available should qualify: Only government workers, or private employees, too? Should it go to a small pool of essential workers like nurses or be spread around to others, including grocery store workers?

“It’s a bad position for us to be in because you have your local government trying to pick winners and losers … or recipients and nonrecipients. And hence by default, you’re saying importance versus not important,” said Jason Levesque, the Republican mayor of Auburn, Maine, where officials have not decided who will receive hazard pay from the city’s American Rescue Plan funds.

A year and a half into the pandemic, such decisions have taken on political implications for some leaders as unions lobby for expanded eligibility, with workers who end up being left out feeling embittered.

“It sounds like it’s about the money, but this is a token of appreciation,” said Ginny Ligi, a correctional officer who contracted COVID-19 last year in Connecticut, where the bonus checks have yet to be cut amid negotiations with unions. “It’s so hard to put into words the actual feeling of what it was like to walk into that place every day, day in, day out. It scarred us. It really did.”

Interim federal rules published six months ago allow state and local COVID- 19 recovery funds to be spent on premium pay for essential workers of

See HAZARD PAY, Page 4A

Members of a health care union rally in Hartford, Conn., in 2020 to demand better protections for caregivers. The state still has not shared its federally provided “hero pay.” JESSICA HILL/AP FILE

Continued from Page 1A

up to $13 per hour, in addition to their regular wages. The amount cannot exceed $25,000 per employee.

The rules also allow grants to go to third-party employers with eligible workers, defined as those who have had “regular in-person interactions or regular physical handling of items that were also handled by others” or a heightened risk of exposure to COVID-19.

The rules encourage state and local governments to “prioritize providing retrospective premium pay where possible, recognizing that many essential workers have not yet received additional compensation for work conducted over the course of many months,” while also prioritizing lower-income eligible workers.

As of July, about a third of U.S. states had used federal COVID-19 relief aid to reward workers considered essential with bonuses, although who qualified and how much they received varied widely, according to an Associated Press review.

A list of hazard and premium pay state allocations as of Nov. 18, provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures, shows funds have typically been set aside for government workers, such as state troopers and correctional officers.

In Minnesota, lawmakers still have $250 million in aid set aside for hero pay, but they’ve been been struggling with how to distribute it. A special committee was unable to come up with a compromise plan, instead sending two competing recommendations to the full legislature for consideration.

“I think every time we take another week, we’re just delaying the whole process, and I think the fastest way is to get them over to the Legislature,” said Republican state Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, a member of the committee, during a meeting last month.

Minnesota Senate Republicans want to offer a tax-free bonus of $1,200 to about 200,000 workers who they say took on the greatest risk, such as nurses, long-term care workers, prison staff and first responders.

But House Democrats want to spread the money more widely, providing roughly $375 to about 670,000 essential workers, including low-wage food service and grocery store employees, security guards, janitors and others.

Connecticut has yet to pay out any of the $20 million in federal money set aside by state lawmakers in June for essential state employees and members of the Connecticut National Guard.

As negotiations continue with union leaders, the Connecticut AFL-CIO labor organization has stepped up pressure on Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, who is up for reelection in 2022, to provide $1 an hour in hazard pay to all public- and private-sector essential workers who worked during the pandemic before vaccinations became available.

“The governor needs to reevaluate his priorities and show that these workers who put themselves and their lives at risk are a top priority,” said Ed Hawthorne, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO.

Max Reiss, Lamont’s spokesperson, said the figures cited by organized labor are “just not feasible.”

He saud the administration is in negotiations with state employee unions, classifying the work state employees did during the pandemic and determining whether they may have shifted to other responsibilities that were more or less risky, which could also affect whether they receive more or less money.

“We want to recognize the workers who kept going into work every day because they had to and there was not a choice. And those range from people working in state-run health care facilities to people who needed to plow our roads during severe weather and work in-person jobs,” he said.

“The next piece is that you have to come up with the determination as to who all those people were. And there’s a verification process to that,” Reiss said.

In some states like California, cities are in the process of determining how to fairly distribute some of their federal funds to to help essential private sector workers who may not have received extra pay from their employers.

Rachel Torres, deputy of the political and civil rights department at United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 770, said her union is urging cities to follow the lead of Oxnard and Calabasas, which voted this year to provide grocery and drugstore workers with payments of as much as $1,000.

“It really should not be a competition among essential workforces. There should be moneys available for many workers,” Torres said.

Connecticut health care workers, like these in Hartford, are still waiting for “hero pay” from federal funds set aside in the state budget. MARK LENNIHAN/AP FILE

Be seeing you

https://i0.wp.com/images.yuku.com.s3.amazonaws.com/image/png/1581184f9a454589955cba4c53cebe68.png
Build Back Better

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: