Workers Suffering from COVID-19 Still Waiting for the Senate to Act

Categories: The Insider, Coronavirus

AFGE is continuing to call on the Senate to pass COVID-19 relief legislation that would address the needs of workers and families devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.  

For months, America’s workers have been risking their lives and the lives of their loved ones by going into workplaces without adequate safety measures.  

The House has passed both the HEROES Act and its less robust version to provide relief to those impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. We urge House and Senate leaders to come together to urgently pass legislation that includes protections for workers in the midst of a pandemic. Lives have been lost. We can no longer wait.  

Here are our priorities included in the original bill and some provisions we are still fighting for: 

  1. Premium Pay

The original HEROES 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. The slimmed-down version of HEROES passed in September did not include premium pay. 

  1. Automatic 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. 

  1. Telework 

The bill 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.  

  1. 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.  

  1. Additional Personal Protective Equipment 

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

  1. 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.  

  1. 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.  

  1. Permanent Funding for USCIS 

Even though we escaped the furloughs and its effects on the economy, agency’s mission, and employees, we need a permanent funding fix to address the issues behind the funding shortfall so that we are not facing furloughs again in the future.  

  1. Funding for the District of Columbia

The bill treats DC as a state for the purposes of funding for prevention, treatment and recovery, and makes retroactive payments under that status for funds provided in the Coronavirus Relief Fund in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. 

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