Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf recently announced the creation of a statewide program granting $50 million in hazard pay to front line workers employed in life-sustaining industries directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The two-week application window for the grant saw more than 10,000 applicants, 639 of which became recipients of $50 million in allocated funding in order to temporarily increase the hourly wages (by $3-an-hour) of more than 41,580 at-risk workers.
Front line workers have been putting their health and safety on the line since the pandemic first began sweeping the United States back in March. These heroic individuals have been making sure that our communities are receiving essential goods like groceries, medicine and medical supplies, and even sanitation and recycling services. Being a front line worker comes with greater risks, such as higher infection rates than the general public. Because of these heightened risks, it is critical that we compensate front line workers with hazard pay.
Governor Wolf approved businesses across seven different industries as recipients for the $50 million in funding. The $50 million in hazard pay is thanks to Pennsylvania’s portion of the federal coronavirus relief package. Not only does the grant money go towards a temporary $3-per-hour pay increase for workers across the affected industries, but it also provides workers who make under $20/hour up to $1,200 in hazard pay over a 10-week period spanning from Aug. 16 to Oct. 4.
The eligible industries that received government funds are as follows:
Altogether, more than 10,000 Pennsylvanian businesses applied for nearly $900 million in grants, despite the program’s somewhat limited capacity. To ensure the appropriate and fair distribution of funds, the Governor’s office says they developed the grant program in direct consultation with the Department of Health, the General Assembly, and the Department of Labor & Industry as per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) guidelines on workers exposed to COVID-19.
Governor Wolf released a statement recognizing that the demand for the program by far outweighed its capacity, which indicates a dire need for additional funding in the near future. In order to address this need, Governor Wolf says he is standing behind the Heroes Fund. The Heroes Fund is a bi-partisan act that would provide up to $200 billion in hazard pay to life-sustaining, or essential, workers. Governor Wolf also noted that he is open to the possibility of working alongside state legislature to allocate additional federal dollars to go to hazard pay for at-risk workforces.
If you would like to tell your congressional representatives that you support the Heroes Fund, you can find out who to contact here: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative.
We will keep our readers updated as this story continues to develop. If you have a legal question or concern about hazard pay or an illness or injury you sustained due to safety failures related to COVID-19, someone at our firm can help. To learn more, contact a representative online now.
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