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Cuomo says feds should fund hazard pay for front-line workers

Apr 20, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters on Monday.
Credit Dan Clark/New York Now

Workers on the front line of the COVID-19 crisis, like health care professionals and transit employees, should receive a bump in pay from the federal government for their work responding to the pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday

He called for those workers to receive a 50% bonus immediately, paid for by the federal government, in recognition of their work during the crisis.

" 'Thanks' is nice. But also recognition for their efforts and their sacrifice is also appropriate," Cuomo said. "They are the ones who are carrying us through this crisis, and this crisis is not over."

Nearly half of all front-line workers are people of color, according to data from the Center for Economic Policy Research. That includes more than a third of health care workers and nearly two-thirds of building cleaning service workers.

About a third of all front-line workers are from low-income households, Cuomo said.

"The economy did not close down," Cuomo said. "It closed down, frankly, for the people who have the luxury of staying at home."

It's not the first time someone has raised the idea. State Sen. Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, both Democrats from Queens, wrote a letter to Cuomo and legislative leaders last week making the same pitch.

They asked Cuomo and lawmakers to set aside funding from the federal government to provide hazard pay to front-line workers.

"Such a step is not only necessary, but the least that we can do to offer compensation for the heroism and enormous risk that our community members are taking to save lives and support our state," the lawmakers wrote.

New York is asking the federal government for more direct aid to pay for its response to the COVID-19 crisis. The National Governors Association, of which Cuomo is a co-chair, wants an additional $500 billion given to states in the next stimulus package.

That money, Cuomo said, would be used by the state, in part, to fill a looming hole in the state budget. If they don't fill that gap, Cuomo said, the state may have to make cuts of up to 20% to local governments, schools, and hospitals.

"You can't spend what you don't have," Cuomo said.

The state is anticipating a loss of revenue north of $10 billion because of the COVID-19 pandemic, state budget director Robert Mujica has said. That's on top of the money disbursed to fund the state's response to the crisis.

As of Monday, an additional 478 had died from COVID-19 in New York, bringing the statewide total to 14,347. That number is lower than in recent weeks, when the disease, at one time, was killing more than 800 people.

The net number of hospitalizations was down again, with 16,103 people in the hospital as of Sunday. That's a net decrease of 110. Of those in the hospital, 4,102 are intubated. That's also a net decrease from Saturday.

An additional 1,035 people were discharged from the hospital on Sunday, according to state data.

The number of positive cases identified by the state, as of Sunday, reached 247,512.