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Schumer Calls For Hazard Pay For Frontline Workers In Coronavirus Fight

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York
Saul Loeb
AFP via Getty Images
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says he told President Trump on Wednesday that the United States should grant hazard pay — additional pay for hazardous duty — to frontline federal employees responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, the New York Democrat also said there will be another coronavirus relief package, and that legislation should require hazard pay for all frontline workers like nurses, doctors and first responders.

"These nurses, these doctors, health care workers, they're risking their lives," he said. "I'm sure when they walk to work or take the subway to work, they're wondering, will I catch this virus? But they're like the firefighters and police officers and construction workers were heroes of 9/11; these are our heroes today. And they should get hazard pay."

Schumer is currently practicing social distancing from his home in Brooklyn. He said he's been spending most of the time working the phone, except for a couple hours a day when he's responsible for childcare for his young grandson.

The Senate minority leader also said he's been pushing Trump to appoint a distribution czar, ideally a general with logistics experience, to manage the deployment of medical supplies like ventilators and masks to states.

A week after the Senate passed a historic $2 trillion rescue package — the third bill responding to the pandemic — he said Congress "will do" a fourth coronavirus relief package, though his vision for what that bill will prioritize seems to differ some from Trump's suggestion Tuesday of a massive infrastructure bill.

"We have to look at election reform," Schumer said. "How are people going to vote? ... And we may have to look at how Congress is going to vote. I think we have to do things with paid leave, paid sick leave, paid family leave."

Schumer said infrastructure investment is a key tool for stimulating the economy, but it might come further down the road.

"I think that the first job is to beat this health care crisis and deal with people who have their immediate problems," he said. "I would not at all be adverse to an infrastructure package. ... It's a longer range view of getting the economy back, but job No. 1 is get those materials to our hospitals and health care workers, get those unemployment checks out."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sam Gringlas is a journalist at NPR's All Things Considered. In 2020, he helped cover the presidential election with NPR's Washington Desk and has also reported for NPR's business desk covering the workforce. He's produced and reported with NPR from across the country, as well as China and Mexico, covering topics like politics, trade, the environment, immigration and breaking news. He started as an intern at All Things Considered after graduating with a public policy degree from the University of Michigan, where he was the managing news editor at The Michigan Daily. He's a native Michigander.