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$250 payment proposed for Louisiana's front-line workers

A bill providing that hazard pay from $50 million in federal virus aid started advancing Wednesday in the House.
Credit: AP
Cindy Morris, left, and Swarnamala Ratnayaka don personal protective equipment before preparing RNA for testing for the new coronavirus at the molecular pathology lab at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, Thursday, April 2, 2020. The test is identical to the PCR test being used by the Centers for Disease Control to ease the testing crisis and stop the spread of COVID-19, which has hit the New Orleans area especially hard. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

BATON ROUGE, La. — State lawmakers are considering a proposal to give grocery store employees, nurses, bus drivers and other front-line workers who stayed on their jobs in the early days of Louisiana's coronavirus outbreak a one-time $250 payment. 

A bill providing that hazard pay from $50 million in federal virus aid started advancing Wednesday in the House.

Democratic lawmakers are pushing the proposal in an ongoing special session that has focused on business recovery from the pandemic. They're trying to broker a deal with Republicans who need some Democratic support to pass certain business tax breaks and other pro-business measures. 

But disagreement remains over how to fund the payments.

Calls for hazard pay for those who have worked throughout the pandemic are being heard throughout the country. 

Last month, RTA CEO Alex Wiggins told the New Orleans City Council’s Transportation Committee that about 80 percent of its ridership has returned. That's led to changes designed to make rides safer for bus drivers, streetcar operators and passengers.

Wiggins said CARES Act money could be used to help cover hazard pay, but that federal cash will likely have to go toward day-to-day operations first since the agency expects a shortfall of up to $40 million.

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