During the COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey supermarket and sanitation workers, employees at New Jersey Transit and the U.S. Post Office, and others keeping the country moving are being recognized as frontline heroes.

A New Jersey Congressional representative is proposing federal legislation to ensure they are financially rewarded for their service, with an extra $15 dollars an hour on top of their regular pay.

“The definition of a frontline worker has been something more than just those wonderful heroes that we have working in the hospitals or the police or the firemen,” Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-12, said.

She said it’s vitally important to recognize the people “who are keeping us safe in our homes, or giving us the ability to work remotely in our homes, but we can’t do that without the federal government standing up.”

Watson Coleman said her legislation recognizes “just everyday people at the stores we can still go into, whether it’s the folks in the pharmacy or even the folks who are delivering food -- those are frontline workers as well. We’ve got to be able to get access to food to be able to eat. People who deliver food to those who can’t get out, that’s another issue. That saves lives.”

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She said these frontline workers not only deserve more money, but we need to make sure their work environment is safe.

“We need to make sure if they are contaminated with the virus in any way that we can separate them out from their families," Watson Coleman said.

She said federal support must be ramped up in many different ways: “There’s just so much that we need to do to keep our workers safe, residents safe, our elderly safe our children safe and get on and get through this.”

The Essential Pay for Essential Workers Act, which calls for workers previously paid at $10 per hour to receive $25 per hour during the coronavirus outbreak, describes eligible workers who provide services in: healthcare, food and agriculture, energy, water and wastewater, transportation, public works, communication and information technology, critical manufacturing, hazardous materials, shelter facilities and services, law enforcement and hygiene products

Current cosponsors of the measures include Reps, Andre Carson (IN-07), Steve Cohen (TN-09), and Eliot Engel (NY-16). The text of the bill is forthcoming.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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