Queens lawmaker wants to create second tier of ‘essential workers’

Posted On Thu, April 23, 2020 By

Posted On Thu, April 23, 2020 By In Policy

Photo by Thomas Loizeau on Unsplash

A Queens lawmaker introduced legislation this month to broaden the definition of “essential worker” to include a second tier of employees, including child care providers, educators, food delivery workers, and more. The bill sponsored by State Sen. Jessica Ramos creates of a new category of workers considered essential during a state of emergency in order to provide assistance and benefits to those on the frontlines of the current health crisis.

By expanding the definition of essential employees, these workers would be eligible for more benefits, including things like personal protective equipment and child care benefits, on the federal, state, and local levels. Under current state law, essential workers include healthcare personnel, law enforcement, firefighters, correctional services, public health personnel, and court personnel.

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency and shuttered all non-essential businesses last month, it revealed which workers truly are essential to New York, many of whom were never recognized as frontline workers before the coronavirus pandemic, according to Ramos.

“People of color are on the front lines of this crisis — risking their lives without access to key protections, while also providing the backbone of our economy,” she told the Daily News. “We must safeguard our working people if we will get through this pandemic.”

As Ramos proposes, “Tier II” of essential workers would include educators, child care workers, transportation workers, substance disorder treatment workers, custodial workers, delivery workers, water treatment personnel, restaurant workers, street vendors, public works personnel, slid waste management, shelter staff, and more.

The lawmaker, who represents Senate District 13, this week joined Assembly Member Aravella Simotas on calling for a hazard pay bonus for all employees forced to work during the coronavirus. During a press briefing on Monday, Cuomo voiced support for federal hazard pay, including a 50 percent bonus.

“If you look at who they are and look at the fairness and equity of what has happened, I think any reasonable person would say we should right this wrong,” the governor said. He has called on the federal government to provide the bonus.

Ramos, along with Assembly Member Carmen De La Rosa, has also introduced a worker bailout fund that would tax the capital gains of billionaires’ assets, generating about $5.5 billion in its first year, Ramos told City & State in an interview. The fund would provide $3,300 for each worker who does not qualify for wage assistance programs and would include undocumented workers.

[Via NY Daily News]


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