House approves $250 payments for frontline workers

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

The Louisiana House of Representatives on Thursday sent the state Senate a proposal to give workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic $250 of one-time “hazard pay.”

“Critical infrastructure workers” who made $50,000 or less last year are eligible. That includes health care providers, grocery store employees, bus drivers and many other types of workers who worked at least 200 hours outside their homes between March 22 and May 14.

Eligible workers would be able to apply with the Louisiana Department of Revenue from July 15 through Oct. 21.

Rep. Sam Jenkins, the Shreveport Democrat who authored House Bill 70, said he would have preferred to include higher-income workers but wanted to control the cost, which will be paid for out of federal CARES Act pandemic relief money. His original version set the income threshold at $70,000.

“We tried to find a midpoint salary,” he said in response to a question about the income limit. “We have critical workers, believe it or not representative, making minimum wage.”

He suggested adjustments could be made later if money is left over.

The program is capped at $50 million in payments, half from $511 million currently set aside for local governments and half from a $300 million grant fund for small businesses. The Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget has authority to shift money from one fund to another, and Jenkins said his bill would not prevent the committee from adding $25 million back into the business fund if local governments are unable to use their full allotment.

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