New guidance from the U.S. Department of Treasury on how states and territories can spend their direct bailouts from the American Rescue Plan will allow for some local employees to get federally funded premium pay for working during the pandemic.
"Many of these essential workers have not received compensation for the heightened risks they have faced and continue to face. Recipients may use this funding to provide premium pay directly, or through grants to private employers, to a broad range of essential workers who must be physically present at their jobs," the Treasury stated in a fact sheet released Tuesday.
A non-exhaustive list provided by the federal agency states eligible jobs include:
• staff at nursing homes, hospitals and home-care settings;
• workers at farms, food production facilities, grocery stores and restaurants;
• janitors and sanitation workers;
• public health and safety staff;
• truck drivers, transit staff and warehouse workers;
• child care workers, educators and school staff; and
• social service and human services staff.
Vice Speaker Tina Muña Barnes is calling for premium pay to be funded through an upcoming $603 million federal subsidy, particularly for nurses.
"I support the issuance of premium pay for any person deemed qualified under the Treasury Department's recently issued guidance. Based on that guidance, the governor must determine who those persons should be. That said, I've asked the governor to prioritize premium pay for nurses because of the immense demand for their skills throughout the nation and around the world," Barnes stated.
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero didn't have a final list of who Guam will deem an "essential worker" on Tuesday, but said she would include employees at hospitals and in the public health sector, and those who are on the "direct front line" of the pandemic.
"I don't want to venture right now to say what that is, because I haven't really vetted it all out. But off the top of my head, I would think the initial critical workers would be those that have to be there to provide – to save the lives and the protection of our people," she said.
A well-funded premium pay program with a wide scope could bring huge benefits to local employees. The benefits could be retroactive as well, according to Del. Michael San Nicolas.
"Under the Treasury's guidance, premium pay means an amount of up to $13 per hour that is paid to an eligible worker, in addition to wages or remuneration the eligible worker otherwise receives, for all work performed by the eligible worker during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Such amount may not exceed $25,000 with respect to any single eligible worker," according to the vice speaker.
The governor said Tuesday there wasn't an estimate available for how much she will earmark for essential worker premium pay.