BOSTON (SHNS) – A group of 27 lawmakers is urging the leaders of two committees exploring how the state should spend over $4.8 billion in federal COVID-19 aid to investigate how to use those resources to fund retroactive premium pay for essential workers.
The effort, spearheaded by Sen. Paul Feeney, resulted in letter delivered Wednesday to Ways and Means Chairs Sen. Michael Rodrigues and Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and Rep. Dan Hunt, chair of the House Committee on Federal Stimulus and Census Oversight. In the letter, lawmakers point to the efforts of private and public sector employees including grocery, retail, public transportation, and agriculture workers, as well as first responders, educators, childcare providers, and healthcare professionals, to keep critical services running.
“Simply, each of these workers, along with countless others, performed a hazardous duty and in many cases endured extreme physical hardship,” the letter reads. “While many workers were given the opportunity to work remotely in their homes away from the dangers of infection, some were simply too important to the functioning of our Commonwealth, its people and economy to stay home.”
The document was delivered a day after those two committees heard testimony on premium and hazard pay for people who worked outside their homes during the state of emergency. The state received around $5.3 billion from the American Rescue Plan. Gov. Charlie Baker allocated $186 million to health and human services’ workforce development, fiscally distressed hospitals, and training initiatives for unemployed or underemployed residents while lawmakers plan to hold public hearings through the fall to help figure out how to spend the rest.
Rep. Maria Robinson filed a bill last year that would have provided hazard pay to essential workers, but it stalled out as the 2020-2021 session came to the end. Feeney, a Foxborough Democrat, has filed legislation this session that is currently before the Labor and Workforce Committee.