Essential Workers Who Turned Up in Pandemic May Get $2,000 Bonuses

Low-income essential workers who worked in-person during the pandemic could receive up to $2,000 in financial support. This is part of a larger $3.65 billion package Massachusetts House Democrats say focuses on communities disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, the Massachusetts House unveiled a bill outlining how eligible state workers who turned up "in person and not in a remote setting" during Governor Charlie Baker's state of emergency could be eligible for the funds, if the bill were signed into law.

The Republican governor declared a state of emergency on March 10, 2020, during the onset of the pandemic. The state remained in place until June 15 this year.

"$500M of this package will go directly towards a pandemic pay program that would send bonuses ranging from $500 to $2,000 to low-income workers who worked in person during the Governor's State of Emergency," Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, wrote on Twitter, elaborating on the proposed initiative.

The multi-billion package "covers a wide array of investments and focusing on communities that were disproportionately affected by COVID-19," the Democratic lawmaker added.

According to CBS Boston, to be eligible for the proposed scheme, workers would be required to have a household income that is at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level—$79,500 for a family of four. Other requirements weren't immediately clear.

House Speaker Ron Mariano told The Boston Globe that lawmakers didn't want the bill to be "overly generous."

"We wanted to benefit the folks who stayed at their post through the whole pandemic—the folks who worked in the nursing homes, that drove the buses, that worked in the supermarkets, that were out there every day servicing the economy when everything else around them was closing," Mariano added.

According to the text of the bill, eligible workers would receive payments on or before January 31, 2022.

The spending package, if signed into law, would use some $2.5 billion from Massachusetts' portion of funds under American Rescue Plan Act funds. Surplus revenues would fund the outstanding costs.

Elaborating on the bill, Michlewitz added on Twitter that $600 million would go toward housing initiatives, including housing production, grants, public housing rehabilitation, and supportive housing for the chronically homeless.

"We are investing in both our most vulnerable populations & creating new pathways of homeownership in the Commonwealth," the lawmaker said.

It would also include a $265 million education package, Michlewitz said, including $100 million in grants to improve heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in public schools with "a high concentration of economically disadvantaged students."

Other priorities include spending on community hospitals, behavioral health programs, local and regional public health boards, and nursing homes, he added.

Newsweek has reached out to Baker's office for comment.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker at vaccination site
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker speaks to press at the Hynes Convention Center FEMA Mass Vaccination Site on March 30, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. The governor declared a state of emergency on March 10, 2020, effective for more than one year. Erin Clark/Getty Images