Maloney Convenes Oversight Hearing on Impact of COVID-19 on Essential Workers and Their Families
Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, on Wednesday convened a hearing examining the ways in which H.R. 6909, the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act of 2020, would help essential workers and their families who have suffered the health and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, we are all acutely aware of the threats posed to our health and safety. But we do not all face the risks of the crisis equally.
“Grocery store workers. Food processing employees. Public transportation operators. Nurses and doctors. Hospital support staff. Nursing home employees. First responders. Janitors and custodians. Mail carriers. Delivery workers. In New York City alone, at least 123 workers at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority have died from coronavirus. The people doing these jobs have taken on the extraordinary burden of maintaining essential services in dangerous and uncertain circumstances. They are essential to keeping the nation running.
“That is why we recognize them as essential workers. They are heroes and heroines. Our hearing today focuses on the responsibility that our federal government has to protect and support them now and in the future. Like the heroes of 9/11, the essential workers of today have been called upon to serve their country at a time of need—a need that places them and their families at heightened risk of injury or death.
“I believe we have an obligation to ensure that if they or their families become ill, there are financial resources provided for them. That is why, following the successful model of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, I introduced H.R. 6909, the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act, on a bipartisan basis with Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and Congressman Peter King,” Chairwoman Maloney stated in her opening statement.
New York City and State have been the epicenter of this pandemic, with more than 380,000 cases statewide and more than 30,000 deaths. New York City alone accounts for more than 200,000 of the cases and more than 22,000 deaths.
At the hearing, the Committee heard testimony from John A. Costa, International President of the Amalgamated Transit Union; Anthony “Marc” Perrone, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union; Bonnie Castillo, Executive Director, National Nurses United, California Nurses Association, and National Nurses Organizing Committee; Eneida Becote, wife of Edward Becote, an essential worker who died from coronavirus; Clint Odom, Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy at the National Urban League; and Avik S. A. Roy, President of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity.
Essential workers on the frontlines of this pandemic risk their health and safety.
- Ms. Becote testified that her husband, Edward, died as a result of his job as an essential worker, and “if he had the PPE, he would have stood a chance.”
- Ms. Castillo said that PPE provided to nurses is “woefully inadequate” and “insufficient” and that nurses have to reuse PPE including N95 masks.
- Mr. Costa said that transportation workers passed away because of “PPE that wasn’t given” to them. He said it was “shameful this President, this Administration let so many people die for the fact of not having the protection that was needed.”
Essential workers are underpaid, lack essential benefits like paid sick leave, and deserve relief.
- Mr. Perrone warned that “millions of workers face the devastating decision between risking their own health or risking the loss of a paycheck or job.”
- Mr. Odom said that the lack of paid leave is “creating a crisis,” especially for women of color, and that paid sick leave is an “indispensable part of this equation” to help essential workers.
Witnesses expressed support for a federal compensation fund for essential workers and their families.
- Ms. Becote said that “our family members made the ultimate sacrifice.” She testified: “Help us honor their memories by protecting the families they left behind so we may go to help others live their American dream.”
- Mr. Perrone said that “financial compensation cannot bring back what’s lost, it is the least that we must do in order to support the families who have worked so hard to keep us fed and to take care of us.”
- Mr. Costa stated in written testimony that because of the conditions that transportation workers face, he had “no doubt that our members and their families will desperately need to rely heavily on the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act.”
The Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act is endorsed by National Urban League, DC37, Service Employees International Union, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Uniformed Fire Officers Association, Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA), National Rural Letter Carriers Association, International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the New York Hotel Trades Council.