ICYMI: Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program Calls Pennsylvania’s Hazard Pay Program a ‘Promising Model’ for Other States

Governor Tom Wolf announced that the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program released an analysis on the importance of hazard pay during the COVID-19 pandemic and highlighted Pennsylvania’s efforts to protect essential workers. The governor continues to call on the General Assembly to provide additional funding for these frontline workers, especially given the tremendous demand and limited funds during the first round of hazard pay support.

Pennsylvania was one of only three states to offer hazard pay through CARES Act dollars to both public and private sector workers; the other two states are Vermont and Louisiana. Brookings stated, “Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 PA Hazard Pay Grant Program is an especially promising model.”

“Pennsylvania was an early adopter of both COVID-19 mitigation efforts and providing assistance to our frontline workers, and this analysis recognizes those critical efforts,” said Gov. Wolf. “It also confirms what we’ve known all along — we need to protect our lowest-paid, highest-risk workers, and we need to allocate additional funding to spread this critical financial assistance further across our commonwealth.”

In its analysis, Brookings noted:

“Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 PA Hazard Pay Grant Program is an especially promising model. To date, the grant funds provided more than 40,000 frontline workers with the equivalent of a 10-week, $3-per-hour raise. Eligibility was limited to workers earning less than $20 an hour in essential industries. The $50 million program was only able to meet about 10 percent of the needs of the applicants, so it applied a strong equity lens to focus the limited funds on the greatest need. The program prioritized workers that are the lowest-paid, face the highest COVID-19 risks, and have the least opportunity for other federal support.”

As part of his fall legislative agenda, Gov. Wolf has called on the General Assembly to provide an additional $225 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to the state’s COVID-19 Hazard Pay Program.

In August, Governor Tom Wolf announced the recipients of $50 million in grants to help employers provide hazard pay to employees in life-sustaining industries during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program was created to keep front-line employees working in vital industry sectors across Pennsylvania.

Grant funds were eligible for hazard pay for direct, full-time and part-time employees earning less than $20-per-hour, excluding fringe benefits and overtime for the 10-week period from August 16, 2020 through October 24, 2020. Employers applied for up to $1,200 per eligible full-time equivalent (FTE) employee, up to 500 eligible full-time equivalent employees per location.

The program was developed in consultation with the General Assembly, the departments of Health and Labor & Industry and in accordance with the Worker Exposure Risk to COVID released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), which administered the program, received more than 10,000 applications totaling nearly $900 million, of which more than 5,000 businesses requesting $300 million were eligible. Of those, 639 employers were awarded $50 million, supporting a $3-per-hour increase in pay for 41,587 workers across eligible industries.

The Hazard Pay Program builds on the programs Pennsylvania has developed to allocate CARES Act funding across the commonwealth, including $225 million for Small Business Assistance, $20 million for cultural organizations and museums, and $10 million for the Fresh Food Financing Initiative.

For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, Pennsylvanians should follow https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/.