Cuomo Calls on Feds to Fund Hazard Pay for ‘Heroic’ Frontline Workers

Cuomo Calls on Feds to Fund Hazard Pay for ‘Heroic’ Frontline Workers
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gives his a press briefing about the coronavirus crisis in Albany, N.Y., on April 17, 2020. (Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images)
Isabel van Brugen

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is asking the federal government for funding to grant bonuses to frontline workers who don’t have the “luxury of staying home” as they continue to lead the state in its battle against the CCP virus.

Cuomo said first responders, health professionals, grocery store employees, transit workers, and other key workers are “heroes” and should be rewarded with 50 percent bonuses on top of their current pay for working through the pandemic.

“They are carrying us through this crisis and the crisis is not over,” Cuomo said at a press briefing Monday. “If you look at who they are and the equity and fairness of what is happening, I think any reasonable person would say we should right this wrong.”

“We all say, ‘Boy, they did a great job, the health care workers did a great job, the police—they’re heroes,’” Cuomo continued. “Yes they are, but you know, thanks is nice. But also recognition of their efforts and their sacrifice is also appropriate.

“Pay them what they deserve. I’d say hazard pay. Give them a 50 percent bonus and I would do that now,” Cuomo said. “Our front-line workers are heroes.”

Cuomo told reporters he was requesting that the federal government supplement the state budget with the money needed to provide essential workers with hazard pay, as the pandemic sees the state’s budget deficit increase from $6 billion to at least $10 billion.

“We said whatever we get from the federal government will determine our state budget. Because the state has a $10 to $15 billion hole right now,” he said of the promised federal stimulus.

Cuomo added, “the federal government has not funded states to date.”

He urged Washington, “don’t forget teachers and police officers and firefighters and transit workers and healthcare workers and nursing home staff, because those are the people who I fund with the state budget, and you shouldn’t make us choose between small businesses and large businesses and people who are on the front line doing the work day in and day out.”

New York state on Sunday reported a drop in its daily death toll for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus. Cuomo said the change indicates the state is “on the other side of the plateau” and that ongoing social distancing practices are working to stem the spread of the virus.

Cuomo said that 507 people died on Saturday, down 33 from the previous day and by 271 since last Monday. Other indicators were also going in the right direction, the governor said. Hospitalizations were down by more than 750 to 16,213.

Nearly 14,000 New Yorkers in all have died since the state’s first CCP virus case was reported on March 1, according to state data. The state total doesn’t include more than 4,000 New York City deaths that may be virus deaths, awaiting confirmation from lab tests.

Cuomo said that 41 percent of New York’s essential workers are people of color, including 40 percent of healthcare workers, 45 percent of public transit workers, and 57 percent of building cleaning service workers.

He added that it is just as important to fund “teachers and police officers and firefighters and transit workers and health care workers and nursing home staff,” as funding businesses impacted by the pandemic.

“The people that put food the shelves and to provide health care, and the police officer that had to go out to keep you safe, and the firefighter who still had to go out and fight the fire; those people worked and they went out and exposed themselves to the virus,” Cuomo said.

State Sens. Andrew Gounardes (D-Brooklyn) and Jessica Ramos (D-Brooklyn), and Assembly Member Aravella Simotas (D-Queens) had addressed letters to the New York congressional delegation, the governor, and legislative leaders, calling on the state government to use a portion of the state’s federal CCP virus relief package for hazard pay to frontline workers. Gounardes suggested tbat funds also be granted to gig or freelance workers, including drivers, delivery workers, and freelance journalists.

Meanwhile, Michael Dowling, CEO of the state’s largest healthcare provider Northwell Health, said Monday that 45,000 of its “heroic” workers would receive $2,500 in bonuses and a week of paid leave.

“Our dedicated staff’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing short of heroic. Thanks to the courage and commitment of our front-line caregivers, we answered the call-in service to the patients and communities who entrust us with their care,” Dowling said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.