Democratic lawmakers and groups that represent federal employees continue to push for hazard pay and other relief in the next coronavirus legislative relief package. Hazard duty pay and some other protections for federal employees were not included in the recent $2 trillion bill negotiated between the House and Senate and signed by President Trump last week.
“Congress clearly recognizes that hundreds of thousands of federal workers are essential to our nation’s response to the global pandemic, because this bill provides agencies critical funding to improve the safety of federal buildings where employees are still working,” National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) National President Tony Reardon said. “And for those employees who are able to work from home, this bill targets much-needed funding for technology to improve their remote access.”
“NTEU also supports multiple provisions included in the House Democratic package that we will encourage Congress to consider in the anticipated fourth coronavirus response bill,” said Reardon. “Those include: hazardous duty pay for CBP personnel at the ports and other federal workers at greater risk of exposure to the virus; additional funding for IRS for taxpayer services, enforcement, and operations support; a provision to provide childcare and dependent care costs to federal employees who are required to report to their offices; and clarification that administrative leave is available for those federal employees who are prevented from working at their normal duty station, among others.”
“This legislative package is far from perfect, but we cannot hold out for perfect when Americans are dying and front-line workers risk exposure on a daily basis due to a lack of protective gear and supplies,” said AFGE National President Everett Kelley.
“However, this bill falls short in several ways – particularly when it comes to protecting federal workers who risk daily exposure to the coronavirus,” Kelley said. “Provisions left out of the bill would have provided hazard duty pay for front-line federal workers, mandated telework across federal agencies, allowed federal employees unable to work to use weather and safety leave, removed barriers for confirming cases of COVID-19 among federal workers, and nullified three anti-worker executive orders that have prevented federal unions from providing input and guidance into agency decisions affecting workers’ health and safety. We look forward to working with Congress in the near-term to address these unresolved issues.”
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY) have also urged Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to implement hazard pay for officers of Customs and Border Protection officers.
“CBP officers risk their own health, and the health of their families, to continue serving their country during a global pandemic, and they deserve better,” said Senator Schumer. “These officers are essential to the security of the U.S. and have shown up to serve, even in the midst of a crisis. They deserve better pay in these circumstances, especially because they come into such close contact with cross-border traffic on a daily basis.”
Congressman Higgins added, “Approximately 480 CBP officers staff Land Ports of Entry in Western New York, enabling for the necessary flow of commerce, supplies and emergency personnel crossings, while putting their own health and safety at risk. They are among those on the frontlines. Guidance dictates hazard pay for CBP officers and their response to the COVID-19 national emergency certainly warrants it.”
Schumer and Higgins explained that the conditions that CBP officers are working in have qualified for both criteria in determining whether employees are eligible for hazard pay. Those conditions are as follows:
- The actual circumstances of the specific hazard or physical hardship have changed from that taken into account and described in the position description.
- Using the knowledge, skills, and abilities that are described in the position description, the employee cannot control the hazard or physical hardship; thus, the risk is not reduced to a less than significant level