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Saturday, 2 May 2020

Romney Proposes ‘Patriot Pay,’ Essential Worker Bonuses, To Address Unemployment Incentive

Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) has proposed new legislation that will help companies pay essential workers, such as grocery stores workers, manufacturers and “other unsung patriots on the frontlines of this pandemic,” with bonuses for the next three months to compensate for working in hazardous conditions. 
The plan, which has been dubbed “Patriot Pay,” would allow Congress and the Department of Labor to deem certain industries as essential, and allow employers in those industries to apply for 75% refundable payroll tax credits to pay for bonuses for their essential workers. 
“This is a proposal which I think is fiscally responsible but also recognizes the additional risk that people are taking,” Romney told The Washington Post in a phone interview on Friday. 
The former Republican presidential nominee also observed that under current circumstances, some essential workers receive more pay from the government for not working at all. 
“That’s not fair,” said Romney, who told the news agency that it creates “an anomaly, of course, for people to be taking additional risk of their health and have someone else not working making more than they are.”
In a press release announcing the legislation, the senator describes an example of how the bonus would come together, using the example of a grocery store that applies for the program as described in his plan. 
“The employer would contribute $3, while the federal benefit would add $9, meaning a $10/hour worker would receive a $5,760 bonus from May 1 through the end of July. The grocery store worker’s weekly paycheck would include an extra $480,” explains the statement. 
Under the legislation, the maximum monthly bonus an essential worker could receive would be $1,920, and the bonus would diminish for workers making over $50,000 per year in annualized pay. This rate would decrease by $24 for every $500, with the bonuses phasing out completely when a worker’s pre-bonus annualized salary reaches $90,000 .
While it’s unclear whether the proposal will gain traction, Romney hinted in his interview with The Washington Post that “a number” of lawmakers “have expressed an openness to considering different ideas.”
Amid widespread closures at the beginning of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, Romney was the first Republican senator to propose sending out stimulus checks, at the time calling for $1,000 for every American adult. 
Congress ultimately passed additional provisions in the stimulus package, including one that was sharply criticized by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tim Scott (R-SC) and Ben Sasse (R-NE), who argued that an unemployment provision in the package contained a “massive drafting error” that would create a perverse work incentive for some essential workers. 
“Under this proposal that they agreed to last night, on unemployment you would be making $24.07 an hour in South Carolina,” said Graham. “There are a lot of jobs in South Carolina that do not pay $24.07.”
“If this is not a drafting error, then it’s the worst idea I’ve seen in a long time, and that’s saying a lot given that we’re in Washington,” he said. 

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