Politics & Policy

Romney Proposes Plan to Boost Wages of Essential Workers over Unemployment Insurance

Senator Mitt Romney in Washington, D.C., January 31, 2020 (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Senator Mitt Romney (R., Utah) released a proposal Friday to raise wages for essential workers for three months, with debates on a possible phase-four relief package intensifying as the Senate returns to D.C. next week.

Romney’s plan, titled “Patriot Pay,” calls for bonuses from May 1 to July 31, 2020, for front-line workers in healthcare and essential services who earn under $90,000. The funding would come from a refundable payroll tax credit that could pay employees up to an additional $12 per hour, if they worked at least 100 hours each month. Patriot Pay says that participating businesses would contribute to the program by paying 25 percent of the bonuses, with the government funding the other 75 percent.

“Health care professionals, grocery store workers, food processors, and many others—the unsung patriots on the frontline of this pandemic—every day risk their safety for the health and well-being of our country, and they deserve our unwavering support,” Romney said in a statement. “Patriot Pay is a way for us to reward our essential workers as they continue to keep Americans safe, healthy, and fed.”

In the release, Romney’s office pointed to “one of the inadvertent anomalies” of the phase-three CARES Act that was implemented in March — an enhancement in unemployment insurance that Republican senators warned could “push unemployment higher” by paying individuals more than their salary, incentivizing them to quit over coronavirus to receive benefits.

Romney said that Patriot Pay would “help ensure” that critical industries — designated by the Department of Labor and Congress — remained fully staffed, with the new compensation paying workers better than the already-enhanced unemployment insurance.

The Utah Republican played an instrumental role in pushing for direct cash payments to Americans, a plan that was ultimately included in the $2.2 trillion CARES package, and pushed to revise the initial plan after it stated that the size of the checks would be halved for Americans with no federal income tax liability.

“The current bill has promise but it shouldn’t give lower earners smaller checks —that’s directly contrary to my proposal. We need to fix this to ensure lower earners get equal payments,” Romney tweeted on March 19.

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