Massachusetts first responders bid for bounty – Fall River Reporter
Michael P. Norton
Requests for the state’s large federal COVID aid pool have grabbed headlines, but first responders play a big role in American Rescue Plan Act funds given to cities and towns.
The Massachusetts Coalition of Police, which describes itself as the state’s largest law enforcement union, on Thursday asked municipalities to earmark a portion of the $3 billion in municipal assistance under ARPA for police, firefighters, paramedics and others whose duties have put them in high-risk scenarios during the pandemic.
“There is no doubt that the men and women working as frontline first responders during the pandemic have earned additional compensation for the great sacrifices they have made,” MassCOP said in a statement. “By allowing these funds to be used for this purpose, the federal government has appropriately recognized these sacrifices. We are calling on all municipalities in the state to do the same by negotiating with all of its first responder labor organizations to provide this important benefit. »
The union said the American Rescue Plan Act allows city funds to be used to provide a bonus to public safety employees who worked during the public health emergency, and believes such pay can add up ‘at $13 per hour to an eligible employee’s wages,’ and in total cannot exceed $25,000 per eligible worker. A union spokesperson did not have an estimate of potential aggregate payments under of demand, believing that decisions are made through community-by-community negotiation. They cited a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association which determined that the risk of first responders contracting COVID-19 at work has been documented as twice the risk for other essential workers, including those in healthcare.
The Baker administration announced this month plans to send $500 checks to about 500,000 low-income workers in March under the first such bounty program in the nation. The program was authorized in a $4 billion COVID-19 relief bill Governor Charlie Baker signed into law in December, and the first round of payments will total about $250 million, with about $250 million more expected. be paid to other workers in future rounds.