For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew Cuomo called on Congress to include funding for hazard pay for “front line workers,” as part of its new round of emergency funding. He made the announcement at a press conference on Monday asking that essential workers — which includes grocery store employees — be paid a 50 percent bonus on top of their existing paycheck during the pandemic.
Staffers at some of the biggest grocery store chains in the country, including Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, have been calling for hazard pay for weeks now. While the management at several of these chains have come through with safety equipment for their staff including masks and gloves, calls for hazard pay have been largely overlooked.
Cuomo isn’t the first elected official to call for hazard pay. Senate Democrats led by minority leader Chuck Schumer have been asking that essential workers including doctors, nurses, and grocery store workers get up to $25,000 — or $13 per hour — in the next phase of coronavirus emergency relief from the federal government.
Cuomo’s plea on Monday is possibly a nod to the growing emergency for essential workers right now. In recent weeks, several grocery store workers across the country have died from the novel coronavirus, including a staffer at a Scarsdale outpost of Trader Joe’s. With the shutdown on dining-in in New York, people have been visiting grocery stores in greater numbers, making it all the more urgent for workers to have added protections and benefits.
Last week, Cuomo issued an executive order requiring all New Yorkers to wear some type of face covering while in public and when it’s particularly hard to maintain social distancing norms. It followed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s directive to grocery stores whereby they can require people entering a store to wear some kind of facial covering as well.