Coronavirus

Coronavirus US: who is eligible for 'Hazard Pay' during Covid-19?

Many social media conversations about 'Hazard Pay' inevitably bring up the extra $600 weekly in unemployment benefits that workers wish they had received too.

Coronavirus US: who is eligible for 'Hazard Pay' during Covid-19?
SAM PANTHAKY AFP

Hazard Pay means additional pay for performing hazardous duty or work involving physical hardship. Work duty that causes extreme physical discomfort and distress, which is not adequately alleviated by protective devices, is deemed to impose a physical hardship.

Hazard Pay doubts raised

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not address the subject of hazard pay, except to require that it be included as part of a federal employee’s regular rate of pay in calculating the employee’s overtime payments. Essential workers in almost every field could be due a $250 check in the near future.

After the government shut down the United States economy in order to stop the spread of Covid-19, lawmakers passed the CARES Act that gave a single stimulus payment to millions of Americans suffering during the pandemic. They also gave an extra $600 weekly payment to people who qualified for unemployment benefits.

Lawmakers, however, left out some essential workers. No law or bill was passed to increase pay for workers who were asked to keep going, risking their life during the pandemic. Some companies did create hazard, or 'hero', pay, typically around $2 extra an hour or a one-time bonus. As the economy has reopened many have since ended it.

Louisiana legislature are helping essential workers

They have passed a Hazard Pay Act with $50 million available for thousands of Louisiana citizens to collect. The bill is still awaiting the governor’s signature for a final approval. So for people who have been working during the period of 22 March until 14 May that would mean that less than $50K a year and working at least 200 hours, qualifies for a hazardous pay rebate of $250.

It is estimated that at least 200 thousand people will be able to apply through the Department of Revenue until the $50M dries up. Democrats have also aimed to help essential workers when the House approved the HEROES Act, but the Republican-controlled Senate and President Donald Trump immediately called that bill ‘dead on arrival’ as it awaits its final decision.