Sending Office: Honorable Jackie Speier
All Americans are dependent on essential workers who risk exposure to the coronavirus as they work to provide essential products and services to our nation. It is heartbreaking to learn about essential workers who have become severely ill and died due to
COVID-19. We are indebted to them and their families and have a responsibility to honor their sacrifice.
report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that, as of April 9, at least 27 health care providers died of COVID-19.
First responders, including at least 13 EMTs and 50 police officers and firefighters—have died of COVID-19 or related complications, many of them in their 30s and 40s. Many transit workers, including 83
employees of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York, have died. At least 41
grocery store workers have also died, and coronavirus outbreaks in
food processing plants have led to the deaths of workers. These reports are certainly incomplete, and these numbers, unfortunately, will increase.
The nation has a special obligation to individuals and their families who have paid the ultimate price while doing work that enables Americans to survive this pandemic. While financial compensation cannot bring back what is lost, it is the least we can do
as a society to acknowledge this debt. I invite you to join me in supporting a proposal to offer this compensation.
Precedent exists for such a federal program—the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits and Educational Assistance Programs provide a tax-free $365,670 payment and educational benefits (up to $1,248 per month per child pursuing postsecondary education) for the
family of a first responder who dies due to injuries sustained in the line of duty. A similar approach would offer a meaningful acknowledgement of and financial support to essential workers and their families. Specifically:
- An Essential Worker Pandemic Compensation Fund would be authorized and operated by the Department of Health and Human Services under the supervision of an independent trustee. The trustee would accept, review, and pay claims by essential workers or their
- The fund would pay $365,670 to the estate of an essential worker who dies as a result of COVID-19 or related complications and offer up to $1,248 per month to cover the costs of postsecondary education for each surviving child.
- The fund would pay half the above amount ($182,835) to an essential worker who becomes severely ill and is hospitalized.
- Payments made by the fund would not be subject to income or payroll taxes.
- Essential workers would be defined by the Department of Homeland Security’s
Version 3.0 Guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.
No compensation system is perfect, but I believe that this approach acknowledges the sacrifices of essential workers and their families. For more information or to become a cosponsor, please contact Brian Collins in my office at
e-Dear Colleague version 2.0