7 Facts About Hazard Pay for Essential Workers

Are you an essential worker, continuing to work despite the risk of catching Covid-19? If so, you could be in line for receiving a bonus of up to $13 per hour. Under proposals in the HEROES Act, all essential workers would receive hazard pay. 

While millions of Americans have become jobless or furloughed due to Covid-19, frontline workers are still keeping the country running. Every day they’re putting themselves at risk of catching the nasty virus — without extra compensation. Of course, doctors and nurses are on the frontline of battling the coronavirus. But essential workers are also those who are stocking shelves, delivering mail, packing our Amazon orders, and doing sanitation work. 

Let’s face it — without essential workers, the economy would grind to a complete halt. From the person at the checkout to the nurse taking a Covid-19 swab, we need these crucial workers. Most employees must work during the pandemic, carrying out vital jobs that can’t be worked from home. Many are working in conditions without proper PPE (personal protective equipment). And, until now, they’ve been doing risky jobs for only their standard rate of pay. 

According to statistics, around one-third of employees in the US are essential workers. Apart from those in the medical profession, the majority of essential workers come from low-income families and don’t have a college degree. Also, one-fourth of all households have at least one family member who works in healthcare.

Frontline and Essential Workers — The Need for Hazard Pay

The government has approved many Covid-19 stimulus packages. But none have addressed the specific needs of key workers. 

For example, under the CARES Act, unemployment benefits were increased and extended to more people. So, each person claiming welfare gets an extra $600 on top of their regular benefits. Also, self-employed and gig workers were able to claim unemployment insurance for the first time. So, anyone laid off, furloughed, or fired could claim benefits. 

Another stimulus package — the Families First Act — gave paid sick leave if anyone showed signs of Covid-19. Also, if you had to stay home to look after someone with coronavirus symptoms, you would be eligible for sick pay. 

But what if you’re an essential worker, and you don’t want to go to work because you risk getting Covid-19? Maybe you’re worried about catching the disease and spreading to a loved one. Or, you may realize that you could get more on unemployment than staying at your risky, “essential” job. The answer? Sorry — you have to go to work because you’re an essential worker. 

The HEROES Act and Hazard Pay for Essential Workers

The HEROES Act aims to compensate workers who must do their job during the Covid-19 pandemic. After all, when everyone is being told to shelter at home — key workers are taking risks going to work and keeping society running.

The basics proposals in the new bill for hazard pay are the following:

  • Increase the hourly rate for key workers
  • Backdate pay to January
  • Keep the program going until well after the pandemic is over

Related reading: All you need to know about the HEROES Act.

7 Facts about Hazard Pay for Essential Workers

If you’re an essential worker, or a loved one has a job in the frontline, how will the HEROES Act benefit you? Read on to find out seven vital facts about hazard pay and essential workers.

Fact #1: The House passed the bill for hazard pay in May

The House of Representatives approved the HEROES bill on May 15, 2020. As well as providing more cash for essential workers, the bill proposes more financial stimulus packages. Among the proposals on the table are the following: 

  • Sending a second, one-time $1,200 stimulus check to most taxpayers
  • Extending the expanded unemployment benefit scheme until the end of January 2020
  • Including a moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent for up to one year
  • Freezing debt collection until the end of the coronavirus pandemic
  • Establishing hazard pay for all essential workers.

Fact #2: Who’s considered an essential worker?

A vital fact about hazard pay eligibility is to know who the government classes as essential workers. Here’s a list of the types of jobs that qualify as key workers during the Covid-19 pandemic:

  • Healthcare workers and medical personnel — These include doctors, nurses, pharmacy workers, first responders, nursing home employees, and home-care workers. 
  • Biomedical workers — Various kinds of scientists, such as laboratory personnel, and certain types of clinical researchers. 
  • Emergency services — Frontline workers, such as police officers, firefighters, and other essential security workers.
  • Social services — Therapists that specialize in physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. 
  • Retail industry employees — People working in grocery stores, restaurants, and other stores deemed to be essential. 
  • Workers in the logistics industry — Warehouse workers, drivers, people who work in distribution centers, and call center support staff. 

Fact #3: Income requirements to receive hazard pay

The level of hazard pay that essential employees receive depends on their basic pay rates. Workers are grouped into the following two categories:

  • Those workers who earn less than $200,000 per year will get a maximum of $10,000 under the hazard pay scheme. 
  • Workers earning more than $200,000 are eligible to get up to $5,000 hazard pay.

Fact #4: Essential workers receive up to $13 per hour extra

If the Senate passes the HEROES Act, most essential workers will see their paychecks increase by $13 per hour. The “pay increase” or “bonus pay” would continue the first of these two scenarios are met: 

  • The essential worker receives their limit of $10,000 or $5,000. 
  • Payments are made up to 60 days after the end of the pandemic. 

5. Hazard pay is backdated to January

The time from when essential workers receive their hazard pay would start on January 27, 2020. So, if senators approve the bill, essential workers would receive a lump sum that includes the time they worked from the end of January until the passing of the bill. After that, eligible workers would receive an extra $13 per hour up until they reach their limit — $10,000 or $5,000. 

6. Hazard pay continues after the pandemic ends

No one really knows how long the Covid-19 pandemic will last. So, the HEROES act proposes that essential workers will continue to receive their “bonus pay” for up to 60 days after the pandemic is officially over. However, this is only the case if the limit of $10,000 or $5,000 hasn’t been reached.

7. Essential workers qualify for hazard pay only if the Senate approves the bill

The HEROES Act only becomes law if the Senate gives the $3 trillion Covid-19 stimulus bill its approval. Recent reports suggest the legislation will come before the Senate at the end of June or beginning of July. However, rumblings in Washington are that it’s unlikely the Senate will approve the bill in its present form.

Hazard Pay for Essential Workers: A Takeaway

The proposals in the HEROES Act aim to compensate essential key workers for putting their lives on the line to keep the country running. Workers who’ve had no choice but to work during the Covid-19 crisis would receive up to $10,000, depending on their basic pay rate and how long the pandemic lasts.