Government Workers Win 5 Major Benefits in New COVID Relief Bill

Categories: The Insider, Coronavirus

It’s only March, and good news keeps coming in for government workers! 

Thanks to AFGE members’ persistence, the House and the Senate passed the final version of a COVID relief bill with important benefits for federal employees to make sure the workers taking care of our country can take care of ourselves and our families during the pandemic. President Joe Biden signed the bill into law March 11. 

Here are the newly minted COVID-related benefits government workers are eligible for: 

  1. 15 weeks of emergency paid leave 

The bill gives federal employees 15 weeks of emergency paid leave through September to address issues related to the coronavirus, such as exposure to COVID-19, a negative reaction to the vaccine, or caring for school-age kids and family members who are affected by the pandemic. 

This additional leave will give federal employees more time to safely recover from COVID-19 or respond to related family care issues without being forced to take unpaid leave or return to work before it’s safe to do so. 

The use of this emergency leave does not count for annuity calculation purposes. The cap on the emergency leave payment is $2,800 biweekly. But those who earn more than $2,800 biweekly or $72,800 annually are still eligible up to that limit. 

  1. Automatic assumption of workplace illness 

The bill includes an automatic presumption of workplace illness for front-line federal employees who contract COVID-19 on the job. This change will allow employees or their survivors to receive workers’ compensation benefits under the Federal Employee Compensation Act (FECA) without facing denials or lengthy appeals. 

  1. Funding to protect feds against COVID 

The bill also provides $200 million for pandemic-related worker protection activities at the Labor Department, $100 million of which would go to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to support OSHA enforcement and worker training in high-risk sectors, such as meat processing, health care, correctional facilities and agriculture.

  1. Fiscal relief for D.C.  

The bill restores the $755 million in funding that D.C. was denied in the CARES Act when D.C. was treated as a territory instead of a state. This has been a big priority for D.C. since CARES passed last March. According to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), the bill includes “an estimated $2.3 billion in fiscal relief” for D.C., which includes the $755 million.

  1. $1,400 stimulus checks 

Federal and D.C. government employees are eligible for a third round of stimulus payments worth up to $1,400 per person.

Under the new package, individuals making less than $75,000 a year will receive a $1,400 check and couples filing jointly making less than $150,000 a year will receive $2,800. Single parents or heads of the household earning less than $112,500 will also receive a $1,400 payment. Eligible families will receive an additional $1,400 for each dependent, both children and adults. 

The amount will phase out as incomes rise to $80,000 for individuals; $160,000 for couples filing jointly; and $120,000 for single parents or heads of the household. 

AFGE thanks the Biden administration and Congress for supporting federal and D.C. workers during these difficult times. Since the outbreak started last year, our union has been working hard to protect government workers against the virus and its devastating effects. 

“The administration’s coronavirus response bill will provide desperately needed relief to hundreds of millions of Americans who have struggled to care for themselves and their families during this pandemic,” said AFGE President Everett Kelley. “On behalf of the 700,000 government workers AFGE represents, I applaud House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for swiftly shepherding the bill through Congress.” 

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