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New House COVID-19 Bill ‘Includes Hazard Pay’ For Front-Line Workers, ‘Strengthens Protections For Telework & Sick Leave’

Published Thursday, May 14, 2020
by Erich Wagner/GovExec.com
New House COVID-19 Bill ‘Includes Hazard Pay’ For Front-Line Workers, ‘Strengthens Protections For Telework & Sick Leave’

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has unveiled a $3 trillion Bill aimed at continuing the Federal response to the Coronavirus Pandemic which, in addition to a variety of stimulus payments, state and local government aid, and additional Federal Agency spending, seeks to provide Front-Line Federal Workers with Hazard Pay and expands other protections for Employees.

Although the White House and Senate Republicans have balked at considering another round of COVID-19 Response Legislation in recent days, Pelosi said Lawmakers must act now if the country is to successfully navigate the crisis.

“We ‘must think big for the people now, because if we don’t, it will cost more in lives and livelihood later,’” she said. “Not acting ‘is the most expensive course.’  ‘So we’re presenting a plan to do what is necessary to deal with the crisis and make sure we can get the country back to work and to school safely.’”

The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (H.R. 6800) contains a number of provisions improving benefits and protections for Federal Employees working remotely and those continuing to report to their normal worksites to combat the pandemic.

First, the Bill provides Hazard Pay, long demanded by Federal Employee Groups and Democratic Lawmakers, to Federal and Private Sector Workers alike whose jobs cannot be done via telework and require interaction with the public in some form.

The so-called Heroes Fund would provide agencies and private employers with money to pay Essential Workers an extra $13 per hour, up to $10,000 in most cases, over the course of the COVID-19 Pandemic, retroactive to January 27th.

Essential Workers who already make at least $200,000 would only be eligible for up to $5,000 in premium pay.

“Covered duty is defined by any duty that requires an Employee to have regular or routine contact with the public or the reporting of an Employee to a worksite at which social distancing is not possible, consistent with the regularly assigned duties of the position of the Employee and (when) other preventative measures with respect to COVID-19 are not available,” lawmakers stated in a summary of the Bill.

There are some caveats, however.

Political appointees, members of Congress and Congressional Staff are not eligible for the Hazard Pay.

And although the new Hazard Pay would not supplant other premium pay opportunities for Federal Workers, the aggregate of Hazard Pay and previously existing premium pay cannot exceed the annual premium pay cap.

Under the legislation, the Office of Personnel Management would be responsible for determining an Employee’s eligibility for Hazard Pay and implementing regulations.

The Bill also would establish that if Employees whose duties require “substantial contact” with the public are diagnosed with COVID-19, they will be presumed as having contracted the virus in the workplace, for the purpose of Workers’ Compensation Benefits.

Currently, the Labor Department applies this rubric only in cases where an Employee is engaged in “high-risk employment” like law enforcement, health care and other First Responder jobs.

To Continue Reading This Labor News Story, Go To: www.govexec.com/pay-benefits/2020/05/new-house-covid-19-bill-includes-hazard-pay-feds-strengthens-protections-telework-and-sick-leave/165344/

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