Ryan Urges Hazard Pay for Frontline Workers

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Democrats probably won’t get everything they want in legislation to further address the coronavirus pandemic, but U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan said he would at least like to see hazard pay for essential workers.

Ryan, D-13 Ohio, discussed legislation to provide additional funds for health care workers and grocery store workers among others during a video conference call with reporters Friday. So many workers are taking on “significant risk” just to help keep the country moving, not only to themselves but also to their families, he said.

“This is taking a significant toll on many people in the county. It is appropriate to support them,” he said.

Ryan is supporting the Coronavirus Frontline Workers Fair Pay Act, legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-8, Pa.).

Under Cartwright’s bill, high-risk health-care workers who earn less than $200,000 annually would receive hazard pay of $18.50 per hour, capped at $35,000, according to a release on the congressman from Pennsylvania’s website. For those who make more than $200,000, the increase would be capped at $15,000.

Other essential workers – such as grocery store clerks and people who transport food — who earn less than $200,000 annually would get an additional $13 per hour, capped at $25,000. The cap for those earning more than $200,000 would be $5,000. The hazard pay timeline would be Jan. 31 through Dec. 31.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) is also pushing for hazard pay for frontline workers, Ryan said.

“Grocery store, mail delivery, health care and distribution center employees continue to report for duty, in order to provide our communities with life-sustaining services during this crisis,” Cartwright said according to the release. “There’s a lot that needs to be done for our caregivers and essential workers, but securing hazard pay for those in harm’s way is the least we can do.”

These workers “deserve some hazard pay because of the risk they are taking,” Ryan affirmed during his call Friday said.

The legislation is being discussed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other leading Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, along with other forms of assistance, such as further cash payments to citizens, which he also backs, he said.

“My hope is the leadership, while maybe they can’t do everything we want, can at least make sure that these frontline workers are taken care of in a significant way,” he said. Pelosi said the proposal is worth considering, “so I’m hopeful,” he remarked.

The proposal is among several that had strong support during a Democratic caucus call Thursday with labor leaders that represent many of these workers.

During the call, the congressman addressed the gradual reopening of businesses in Ohio as a stay-at-home order for the state remains in place until May 29. While he praised Gov. Mike DeWine for the approach Ohio is taking, but was more critical of the “mixed signals” coming from Washington.

He acknowledged the governor is taking heat from business interests and conservative Republicans who are trying to expedite the reopenings and public health officials who say the necessary testing required is a ways off.

“He’s trying to thread the needle here because obviously it’s a very, very complicated situation. He’s trying to do the best he can and he’s being very thoughtful,” he said

Ryan also addressed the sexual assault allegations against the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, former Vice President Joe Biden, by former Biden junior staffer Tara Reade.

After weeks of silence, Biden denied the allegations in a statement issued Friday morning and during a television interview.

“They aren’t true. This never happened,” Biden said in the statement.

Ryan, who endorsed Biden after ending his own bid for the Democratic presidential nomination last fall, defended Reade’s right to be heard on the allegation, which dates back 27 years, when Biden was a U.S. senator.

Biden addressed the allegations appropriately, and “responsible” news organizations should investigate them “wholeheartedly,” Ryan said.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.