Per Forbes, one of the lesser-known provisions in that guidance is that it allows cities to use the funds on hazard pay for essential workers.
“Employers’ policies on COVID-19-related hazard pay have varied widely, with many essential workers not yet compensated for the heightened risks they have faced and continue to face,” the rule says. “The added health risk to essential workers is one prominent way in which the pandemic has amplified pre-existing socioeconomic inequities.”
The rule for the distribution of the stimulus funds also defines “essential work” as “work involving regular in-person interactions or regular physical handling of items that were also handled by others.”
The text of the rule includes several categories of workers, which include “staff at nursing homes, hospitals, and home care settings; workers at farms, food production facilities, grocery stores, and restaurants; janitors and sanitation workers; truck drivers, transit staff, and warehouse workers; public health and safety staff; childcare workers, educators, and other school staff; and Social service and human services staff.”
The rule also described while such designations are necessary.
“The low pay of many essential workers makes them less able to cope with the financial consequences of the pandemic or their work-related health risks, including working hours lost due to sickness or disruptions to childcare and other daily routines, or the likelihood of COVID-19 spread in their households or communities, the rule said. "Thus, the threats and costs involved with maintaining the ongoing operation of vital facilities and services have been, and continue to be, borne by those that are often the most vulnerable to the pandemic. The added health risk to essential workers is one prominent way in which the pandemic has amplified pre-existing socioeconomic inequities.”
The $350 billion going out to states, as part of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, has been a topic of some controversy. The administration has determined that funds from the $350 billion cannot be used to fund new tax cuts, a provision that has already led multiple Republican state attorneys general to file lawsuits against the federal government.
"The federal government can adopt guard rails to ensure that states don't backfill their own spending reductions with federal aid dollars and use the savings to adopt tax cuts, but by imposing restrictions at a department level, the Treasury rule functionally makes almost all spending cut-financed tax reductions off limits,” Jared Walczak, vice president of state projects at the Tax Foundation, told Reuters this week.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.