Senator Mitt Romney of Utah has released a plan for giving essential workers a temporary pay raise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Romney is the first Senate Republican to formally propose a hazard pay plan, after Democrats introduced their own version last month.
Under Romney's "Patriot Pay" plan, essential workers making less than $50,000 a year would receive a bonus of up to $12 an hour during May, June and July. Three-quarters of that raise would be paid by a refundable payroll tax credit from the federal government, and employers would cover the rest.
Workers making between $50,000 and $90,000 would receive smaller tax credits depending on their income, according to the proposal released by Romney's office on Friday. Workers in hospitals, food distribution and health manufacturers are specifically mentioned in the proposal, which says Congress and the Department of Labor would designate other critical workers who would be eligible.
"Health care professionals, grocery store workers, food processors, and many others—the unsung patriots on the frontline of this pandemic—every day risk their safety for the health and well-being of our country, and they deserve our unwavering support," Romney said in a statement.
Romney said the plan would also ensure essential workers earn wages that are greater than unemployment rates. Some Senate Republicans and business owners have raised concerns about workers making more on unemployment during the pandemic than they did on the job. Thirty million Americans have filed for unemployment in the past six weeks, after the pandemic led to economic shutdowns nationwide.
Romney said the plan should be included in the next coronavirus relief package passed by Congress. The relief bills so far have not included hazard pay.
Senate Democrats in April introduced a "Heroes Fund" proposal to give up to $25,000 to essential employees including health care workers, first responders, law enforcement, clerks and delivery workers.
Romney was the only Senate Republican left off a congressional task force about reopening the U.S. economy. President Trump said he was "not a fan" of Romney and didn't "really want his advice." The comments suggested lingering resentment toward Romney being the only GOP senator to vote for conviction in one of the charges against Mr. Trump in his impeachment trial.