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Some local governments impose pay at risk for frontline workers – Marketplace




Monday is Daniel Gersons Employee Appreciation Day. He works in a large grocery chain in Maryland. As a thank you, “they’re giving us a $ 10 in-app coupon,” he said. “It’s insulting.”

The store stopped paying the risk premium in June. He currently earns $ 14.20 an hour.

“I broke my back, you know, trying to pay the bills with reduced hours and protecting myself,” Gerson said. “And these are the thanks we get after about a year of doing this.”

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back in the day, many companies were paying a risk premium – about $ 2 more per hour – to come to work.

Most of them quietly disappeared last summer.

“The large retail and grocery chains made windfall profits during the pandemic and passed little on to their workers,” said Molly Kinder of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.

Without federal action, it was primarily up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They helped compensate frontline workers, but they weren’t perfect.

Pennsylvania used the CARES Act funding to create a risk premium. About 10,000 companies applied; the money was only about 640. And new rules in California and Washington require certain types of businesses, mainly large grocery stores, to add the “hero” or risk premium. But they mostly leave out the restaurant and healthcare workers.

“The solutions are small. They are piecemeal, ”Kinder said. “You see these innovative pop-ups because overall we haven’t been able to do anything in a systematic way.”

Some companies still offer incentives. Target gave bonuses of $ 500 at the beginning of the year. But Adam Ryan, who works in a store in Virginia, doesn’t think it’s enough.

“The industry standards are so low that when a company like Target does, it is considered an exceptional measure,” he said.

Ryan thinks the risk premium should continue until the danger subsides. Until then, hell continues to take lunch breaks in his car.

Will employee vaccination incentives work?

These incentives range from allowances and additional salaries to gift cards and even time off. But there is a lot of debate among behavioral economists about whether incentives work and what could be the unintended consequences. Incentives are a first step for many companies to encourage employees to get vaccinated, even if there is previousfor them torequirehe. The rewarding vaccinations, however, remain legally obscure.

What happens if some relief funds are not spent?

Depending on how you count it, the federal government has so far provided around $ 4 trillion in pandemic-related relief, ranging from loans to tax cuts to new spending. But, said Marc Goldwein, first vice-chair of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, there is still a lot of money in the pipeline. PPP money remaining is sitting in an account. But other expenses, like unemployment, are more like Congress saying, Well, spend it if we need to. But the fact that such and such a program spends all that one expects is a very different argument from that of total needs in the economy.

How should companies compensate for the costs of working from home for their employees?

A new survey from the software and data companyWage scale found that less than 25% of organizations paid some kind of allowance to employees working from home last year. As companies make some level of home work permanent, they need to think carefully about their compensation policies because it can be difficult to determine allowances, said Shelly Holt, director of human resources at PayScale. Also ato studyfrom the University of Washington found that about 75% of Americans cannot work exclusively from home. People who work in health care and grocery stores among many others.

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