Hazard Pay In Focus As Essential Workers Earn Less Than The Jobless
When Essential Workers Earn Less Than The Jobless: 'We Put The Country On Our Back'
As co-workers began to get sick, essential worker Yudelka LaVigna took an unpaid leave of absence. When she got her unemployment benefits, she realized something unheard of: She was making more money not working.
"That just kind of opens your eyes," says LaVigna, who's now back at her New York call center job for essential services.
When the government shut down the U.S. economy in a bid to tame the spread of the coronavirus, Congress scrambled to help tens of millions of people who lost jobs. The government rushed one-time relief checks to all families that qualified and tacked an extra $600 onto weekly unemployment benefits, which are usually less than regular pay and vary by state.
But so far, lawmakers have not passed any measure to increase pay for workers who were asked to keep going to work during a highly contagious health crisis. Some companies did create hazard, or "hero," pay — typically around $2 extra an hour or a one-time bonus. Most have since ended it.
So those boosted unemployment checks have created a bizarre distortion in the labor market, where holding on to a job doesn't guarantee being financially better off than losing one.
LaVigna says it's a weird imbalance. "You feel like, you guys [the government] never have money for people that really need it, and all of a sudden you have money for everybody," she says. "But then the people that ...
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