Wolf Administration Grants Hazard Pay to Front-Line Workers in Life-Sustaining Industries
August 17, 2020
Governor Tom Wolf announced the recipients of $50 million in grants to help employers provide hazard pay to employees in life-sustaining industries during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program, announced last month, was created to keep front-line employees working in vital industry sectors across Pennsylvania.
“Pennsylvania’s front-line workers put themselves and their loved ones at risk each day they report to work to ensure the continuation of critical goods and services for their communities, and hazard pay is an important opportunity to compensate these vital workers,” said Gov. Wolf. “It is undeniable that COVID-19 has put incredible stress on Pennsylvania’s economy, health care system and workforce, and my administration is committed to supporting our businesses and communities as we continue to navigate this global pandemic.”
A list of awardees is now available.
Created through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, this reimbursement-based grant is available to employers offering hazard pay during the eligible program period and will be administered by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).
Grant funds can be used for hazard pay for direct, full-time and part-time employees earning less than $20/hour, excluding fringe benefits and overtime for the 10-week period from August 16, 2020 through October 24, 2020. Employers applied for up to $1,200 per eligible full-time equivalent (FTE) employee, up to 500 eligible full-time equivalent employees per location.
The program was developed in consultation with the General Assembly, Department of Health and the Department of Labor & Industry and in accordance with the Worker Exposure Risk to COVID released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
During the two-week application window, the administration received more than 10,000 applications totaling nearly $900 million, of which more than 5,000 businesses requesting $300 million were eligible. Of those, 639 employers were awarded $50 million in allocated funding, supporting a $3 per hour increase in pay for 41,587 workers across the seven eligible industries:
- Health Care – 63.5 percent ($31.75 million)
- Food Manufacturing – 7.2 percent ($3.6 million)
- Food Retail – 8.2 percent ($4.09 million)
- Social Assistance – 12.6 percent ($6.3 million)
- Janitorial – 3.7 percent ($1.84 million)
- Transportation – 1.2 percent ($592,000)
- Security – 3.6 percent ($1.8 million)
To address the demand and make equitable decisions on funding of these limited dollars and to ensure that the funds were distributed in a way that reaches each eligible industry, additional factors were taken into consideration for final determination of awards, including the amount of dollars requested within each industry category; the risk level, in accordance with the OSHA Worker Exposure Risk; wage level of industries and occupations; and availability of other federal funding relief opportunities.
“The demand for this program indicates the need for additional funding to support these critical front-line workers, who selflessly helped their fellow Pennsylvanians through the toughest times of the COVID-19 pandemic,” added Gov. Wolf. “I support the Heroes Fund, in the bi-partisan Federal HEROES Act, which would provide $200 billion in hazard pay to life-sustaining workers. My administration is also open to working with the state legislature to allocate additional federal dollars toward hazard pay for additional workers and industries.”
“Our neighbors and family members are putting their bodies on the line to make sure we all have food, medicine, care, supplies and essential services to get through this pandemic,” said state Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler (D- Philadelphia). “I’m committed to supporting the healthcare, grocery, and many other workers who deserve hazard pay and much more.”
“Recognizing the risk our frontline workers take every day must include more than just wearing masks and social distancing in their places of employment; it must include fairly compensating them for the risk they take,” said state Rep. Kyle Mullins (D-Lackawanna). “We also must recognize that the demand for hazard pay far exceeded this program’s capacity, showing that our efforts on behalf of these employees must reach more workers in more professions.”
“Today’s awards are a critical first step in acknowledging the ongoing strain the COVID crisis has placed on Pennsylvania’s heroic frontline workers. But there is so much more to do,” said state Sen. Maria Collett (D- Bucks, Montgomery). “That’s why we continue to urge our federal partners to swiftly pass the HEROES Act and provide Pennsylvania with the resources to support not only our frontline workers but also our small businesses, schools, the unemployed and everyone affected by this prolonged crisis.”
“Throughout the pandemic, we have consistently seen how essential front-line workers and their families have borne the brunt of the impact, taking on more risk and experiencing higher infection rates than the public whom they serve,” said state Sen. Pam Iovino (D- Allegheny, Washington). “These hazard pay grants represent an acknowledgement from our commonwealth, as well as from their employers, that these employees’ contributions are appreciated by all Pennsylvanians. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the General Assembly and Governor Wolf to examine additional ways to support front-line workers as we chart a just, sustainable recovery for Pennsylvania.”
“It is our duty as elected representatives to fight for the rights and increased wages for all Pennsylvania workers,” said state Sen. Lindsey M. Williams (D- Allegheny). “Granting hazard pay to workers who have been on the front-lines of COVID-19 is one of many actions we need to take to help our economy – and more importantly our communities – emerge from this crisis stronger than before.”
The funding awarded today builds on the programs Pennsylvania has developed to allocate CARES Act funding for impacted businesses across the commonwealth, including $225 million for Small Business Assistance, $40 million for the dairy industry, $20 million for cultural organizations and museums, and $10 million for the Fresh Food Financing Initiative.