Cuomo echoes Queens lawmakers’ call to give hazard pay to frontline workers

Photos Angélica Acevedo/Aravella Simotas office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said frontline workers deserve a 50 percent bonus of hazard pay during the COVID-19 pandemic during a press briefing on Monday, April 20.

“Essential public workers are the ones on the front lines every day carrying us through this crisis, and we must ensure their efforts and sacrifice are appropriately recognized,” Cuomo said. “This crisis is not over yet, and as long as these workers continue to work and expose themselves to the virus, they should be properly compensated. I am calling on the federal government to provide hazard pay to these frontline workers and give them a 50 percent bonus because they are the true heroes in this crisis.”

This comes less than a week after Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas called on the state to provide a bonus in hazard pay for essential workers forced to work through the coronavirus health crisis.

In a joint letter sent to Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Carl Heastie on April 14, Ramos and Simotas urged the state to use a portion of the federal stimulus funds given to New York to compensate and support those who are putting their lives on the line so social distancing can be realized.

“In the face of an unprecedented global pandemic, our essential workers have truly stepped up,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement. “Many of these employees are working despite a shortage of proper personal protective equipment, commuting on crowded public transit, or putting in more hours than typically expected. Our state must do everything it can to ensure a just compensation for those who are putting their lives on the line every day. That begins with hazard pay for essential workers.”

About 40 percent of frontline workers are people of color, but in certain industries that number is even higher, according to Cuomo. The New York Times reported that one in three jobs held by women has been designated as essential, and non-white women are more likely to be doing those essential jobs.

Ramos and Simotas proposed the hazard pay bonus would apply not only to healthcare workers, but also to anyone who has been deemed essential, such as grocery store employees, nursing home employees, transportation workers, cleaning and maintenance crews.

They emphasize that essential workers are witnessing illness, death, commuting long distances, and risking themselves and their households to the virus.

Queens still leads the city with more than 40,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. The Jackson Heights, Corona and Elmhurst neighborhoods, which Ramos represents, are some of the hardest hit in the borough, according to The City. They’re also home to many of the city’s service workers.

“These individuals are being applauded every day at 7 p.m. by those staying at home for a reason,” Ramos and Simotas wrote in their letter. “We strongly recommend that you use our state federal stimulus funds to provide a temporary hazard pay bonus for essential frontline 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.”

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