Congresswoman Lee Announces First Bill Along with Sen. Markey, Legislation to Raise Hazard Pay, Strengthen Protections for Health Care Workers

May 25, 2023
Press

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Emilia.Rowland@mail.house.gov  330-212-2065

Congresswoman Lee Announces First Bill Along with Sen. Markey, Legislation to Raise Hazard Pay, Strengthen Protections for Health Care Workers

Washington (May 25, 2023) – Congresswoman Summer Lee (PA-12) announced the introduction of her first bill, the Hazard Pay for Health Care Heroes Act, co-led by Reps. Ro Khanna (CA-17) and Barbara Lee (CA-12). Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced the companion in the Senate. The bicameral legislation would empower the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue grants related to a hazard pay of up to $13 per hour / $25,000 per year and implement additional safety measures, such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and alternative transit, for essential workers in health care and supporting services who are providing patients with immediate or undisrupted medical assistance during emergencies and extreme weather disasters. The legislation would be applicable to the full spectrum of workers in health care that make high quality health care possible, including home care workers, medical technologists, nurses, doctors, and environmental services staff.

Congresswoman Summer Lee said, “I’ve been fighting for fair wages and safe conditions for our hospital workers from my time as an organizer and State Legislator all the way to Congress. Every time disaster strikes, our health care workers show up for us–even when it means putting their own lives at risk. It’s time we show up for them with pay and protection, not just bells and whistles. With public health and environmental crises from pandemics and train derailments to climate driven disasters becoming more frequent and more dangerous, we need bold action starting with the Hazard Pay for Health Care Workers Act to protect our health care workers, patients, and communities they care for by providing the hazard pay and safety tools they need to continue to keep our loved ones safe during emergencies.”

“Health care workers are on the frontlines of our nation’s dual public health and climate crises, treating and tending to communities hit hardest by extreme weather and environmental disasters,” said Senator Markey. “These heroes deserve more than our gratitude—they deserve better pay and stronger protections. I am proud to join Representative Lee in introducing the Hazard Pay for Health Care Heroes Act to ensure health care workers who are responding to these emergencies are provided hazard pay and given the safety tools necessary to protect patients and themselves.” 

 “Our essential healthcare workers react to crises when we are called upon – the recent COVID-19 pandemic is proof. Our workers put ourselves on the line and respond to emergencies. That is who our workers are and what we do,” said Matt Yarnell, President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.  “But we honor and thank Congressperson Lee and Senator Markey for recognizing that our essential workers also need support, hazard pay, proper protection equipment and PPE when new crises show up. The next public health and climate related emergency will certainly show up and we need to be prepared and have our workforce ready to respond with all the resources and leadership we need.”

Specifically, the Hazard Pay for Health Care Heroes Act would provide funding to: 

  • Pay essential workers in health care hazard pay, up to $25,000 a year, for their work during an emergency or disaster declaration;
  • Equip workers in health care with necessary safety measures like personal protective equipment; and,
  • Secure safer, alternative modes of transportation for health care workers, when their commutes are made hazardous by disaster. 

The legislation is endorsed by SEIU Health Care Pennsylvania, American Federation of Teachers, American College of Nurse Midwives, National Hispanic Medical Association, Massachusetts Nurses Association, Climate and Community Project, Transhealth, Family Health Center of Worcester, and the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center. 

A new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology finds that a concurrent heat wave and blackout in Phoenix, Arizona would cause severe heat-related illness and put nearly half of the city’s residents in need of emergency care. Understanding the need to uphold continuity of care and protect patients in the event of extreme weather disasters made worse by climate change, the Hazard Pay for Health Care Heroes Act will provide federal funding to empower health care systems and keep workers safe during emergencies. 

“This bill ensures essential healthcare workers are supported during times of disaster. These selfless heroes are the lifeline of our society, working tirelessly on the frontline, oftentimes putting their own health and wellbeing at risk. This is a significant step forward in recognizing the invaluable contribution they make to our nation. This will help bolster their resilience and fortify our healthcare system in the face of future challenges. It’s an essential investment, not just in our workforce, but in the health of our nation,” said Dallas Ducar, CEO of Transhealth. 

Congresswoman Lee has championed efforts to advance climate and health justice to protect communities and their public health.  Last month, Lee joined Senator Markey and Representative Ro Khanna (CA-17) to introduce the Green New Deal for Health to enable the U.S. health care system to respond to climate change by improving sustainability and supporting patients, providers and communities. 

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