Ryan insists on hazard pay for essential employees

November opponent criticizes efforts to ‘leverage campaign’

WARREN — U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan on Friday discussed his efforts to include a “Hero Fund” in the CARES 2.0 Act.

The Coronavirus Relief Bill (CARES Act) is intended to speed relief across the American economy. The aid from Congress is meant to keep businesses and individuals afloat during an unprecedented freeze on the majority of American life.

“It is my belief that there are so many workers that are out in our economy today, essential workers that are experiencing a significant risk just by helping to keep the country moving,” Ryan said during a virtual conference call. “And it could be front-line health care workers. It could be people that are cashiers at the grocery store or some of the other home improvement stores that really are interfacing with the public in a significant way in the middle of a global pandemic.

“I believe that they deserve some hazard pay because of the risks that they are taking on — not just a risk for them but also a risk for their families … This is taking a significant toll on so many people in the country,” Ryan, D-Howland, said.

The Hero Fund would create a $25,000 pandemic premium pay increase for essential front-line workers, as well as a $15,000 recruitment incentive for health and home care workers and first responders.

Ryan added there are a couple cash assistance bills in the works and the conversation in Washington still is ongoing.

On April 7, Ryan sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and congressional Minority Leaders Kevin McCarthy and Chuck Schumer urging them to support these essential workers who risk exposure to COVID-19 every day.

“As we continue turning the tide of this pandemic, we must ensure that those working where the rubber meets the road are properly compensated for the grueling hours spent exposed to this deadly pathogen. We must also promote recruitment so that our nation can not only build the workforce this fight requires but is prepared should things take a turn for the worst. It is paramount that we have acute clarity on what is at stake here: Americans’ lives and their livelihood,” Ryan wrote in his letter.

Ryan’s plan includes an $18.50 flat rate increase, capping at $35,000, for high-risk health care workers as well as those directly on the front line. For other essential workers such as cashiers and people who work in grocery stores, there will be a $13 flat rate increase, capping at $25,000. For those who make more than $200,000, this rate will cap at $5,000. These rates do not apply to those who are teleworking.

“We just want to make sure that as a country we’re saying one, thank you, but two, they should receive additional pay in the middle of a pandemic when many of us are home and working from home and teleworking, they’re on the front lines,” Ryan said.

Christina Hagan, the apparent winner of the Republican primary for the 13th Congressional District, said her November opponent is using the pandemic to leverage his campaign.

“As a working-class mother married to a first responder and sister to firefighters, EMTs and other medical professionals, it’s unfortunate that Tim Ryan would use a global pandemic and shattered economy for political pandering,” Hagan said in a statement Friday night.

She said if Ryan intended to help, he and his colleagues in the House majority already would have done so. She pointed to Ryan’s criticism of President Donald Trump and “embarrassing” the district by walking out on his State of the Union address.

“Tim Ryan only cares about the headline he’ll receive and not the people he’s hurting,” Hagan said.

Hagan said she is committed to standing by first responders and other front-line workers through the pandemic.



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