New COVID-19 Bill Includes AFGE’s 7 Priorities Benefiting Front-line Workers

Categories: The Insider, Coronavirus

New COVID-19 response legislation released May 12 includes many of the priorities AFGE has been pushing for Congress to adopt on behalf of front-line workers. 

AFGE strongly supports passage of House legislation, named the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which would provide federal workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic with many of the enhanced protections and benefits the union has been championing, most recently in letters to members of the House and Senate. More than 10,000 AFGE leaders and activists also signed our petition to get Congress to prioritize front-line government workers. 

“We are glad to see that this legislation emphasizes the needs of front-line workers, who continue to put themselves and their families in harms’ way every day they report to work,” said AFGE President Everett Kelley. “Provisions included in the House bill would provide much-needed help and support to nurses and other health-care providers at veterans’ hospitals, to correctional officers and staff in our federal prisons, to federal meat and poultry inspectors at processing plants, and all the workers whose lives have been endangered or otherwise disrupted by this deadly contagion.” 

AFGE priorities included in the legislation are: 

1. Premium pay 

The bill would provide premium pay for employees whose duties, work setting and interaction with the public place them in danger of contracting COVID-19, and make the pay retroactive to January 27, 2020 when the national emergency went into effect. 

2. Presumption of worksite illness 

Employees who must interact with the public, who have been quarantined, or who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 during the performance of their duties will be given a presumption that they contracted the virus at work. This will help expedite approval of workers’ compensation claims. 

3. Telework  

Requires agency leaders to allow telework for all eligible federal employees during the coronavirus pandemic. Agencies would be required to expand telework by creating incentives to increase its use and disincentives to reducing it. 

4. Universal testing 

The bill allocates $75 billion for coronavirus testing, contact tracing, and isolation measures, which will ensure that every American can access free coronavirus treatment. 

5. Additional Personal Protective Equipment 

The bill amplifies production and distribution of personal protective equipment and other supplies and requires the administration to see input from labor organizations and other stakeholders. 

6. Paid Leave clarifications 

The bill ensures that federal employees will not be excluded from the paid leave provisions previously passed by Congress and clarifies that Transportation Security Officers and health-care workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs are entitled to the additional two weeks of paid sick leave. 

7. OSHA emergency standard 

The bill requires the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue a temporary standard to protect front-line employees from exposure to COVID-19. 

“On behalf of the 700,000 federal and D.C. government employees AFGE represents, I thank House Speaker Pelosi and the rest of the House leadership for their efforts to provide much-needed relief and support to workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kelley added. “Our union looks forward to working with both the House and Senate to pass these legislative priorities without delay.” 

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