MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Minnesota physicians today called on Republicans in the state Senate to stop obstructing frontline worker pay for nurses, school employees, retail and childcare workers and other employees who were at direct risk of COVID-19 infection during the pandemic. Their call comes as the April 30th tax filing deadline for businesses approaches and the Legislature aims to finalize negotiations on both payroll taxes and frontline worker pay. For months, Senate Republicans have blocked HF 2900, which provides $1,500 for each frontline worker, despite legislators and policymakers agreeing on several compromises. In the spirit of compromise, the House amended SF 2677, which now contains both the Unemployment Insurance tax provisions and frontline worker pay and passed the bill late Monday night. The bill now awaits action by the Senate.
“By blocking frontline worker pay for hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans, Republican politicians are turning their backs on families who put their health at risk and made sacrifices during the pandemic,” said Dr. Peter Eckman, a cardiologist in St. Paul, Minn., and member of the Committee to Protect Health Care (CTP). “Many COVID-19 patients were and continue to be people who work every day in public, on the front lines, and many of them got very sick. As a physician, I remain concerned about the risks of COVID-19 to Minnesotans who continue to work on the frontlines, because infections can contribute to short- and long-term cardiovascular complications. Frontline worker pay for Minnesotans who do some of our most essential work is the least we can do to show our thanks.”
The Minnesota Legislature agreed last session to provide frontline worker pay, but Republican lawmakers have since withdrawn their support. As such, Minnesotans still await a deal that would send frontline work payments, repay the unemployment insurance trust fund, and prevent a tax increase ahead of the April 30th tax filing deadline for businesses.
HF 2900 and SF 2677 would both provide pay to frontline workers in 15 categories of jobs, including emergency responders, child care and nursing home employees and workers in manufacturing, retail, transit and transportation, and building services. An estimated 667,000 workers in Minnesota could benefit from the legislation.
“COVID-19 is a serious illness that can have long-term health consequences for patients, even if they appear to recover, and that includes damage to vital organs such as the lungs, heart and kidneys, requiring treatment, long recovery and therapy,” said Dr. Sarah Lawrence, an internal medicine resident in Southern Minn., and CTP member. “The $1,500 in frontline worker pay can provide significant relief to Minnesotans who showed up for work, often in low-paying jobs. This legislation and the frontline worker pay it provides will help workers who got sick, who had to take time away from work and who lost wages as a result. When every paycheck counts for frontline workers, delaying this much-needed relief is a slap in the face of Minnesotans who sacrificed and put their health on the line.”
“Emergency physicians saw everyday, and still continue to see, the suffering that people with COVID-19 experience when they walk through our doors; these patients struggled to breathe and struggled to survive,” said Dr. Dawn Ellison, a retired emergency physician in Dent and a CTP member. “COVID-19 disproportionately sickens frontline workers doing difficult and often low-paying jobs. The people who got sick were nursing home workers and daycare employees who look after the people we love the most, retail and grocery store workers who made sure the shelves were stocked so we could feed our families, and transportation workers who kept our local economy going. Senate Republicans should acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices that thousands of Minnesotans made during the COVID-19 pandemic, by passing HF2900 or SF 2677 and providing frontline worker pay.”
In March, CTP physicians released ads urging Minnesota legislators to pass frontline worker pay. In support of frontline worker pay, the ad says, in part: “When nobody understood the risks, they went to work.” The ads can be viewed here, here, and here.
About the Committee to Protect Health Care
The Committee to Protect Health Care is a national mobilization of doctors, health care professionals, and advocates who are building a pro-patient health care majority in Congress and in states so that we can live in an America where everyone has the health care they need to thrive. To learn more: www.committeetoprotect.org