New Jersey lawmakers are doing everything in their power to assist first responders in attaining the equipment and funding needed, as EMS personnel, firefighters and police officers are continuously in direct daily contact with thousands of people who have contracted the novel coronavirus.
Rep. Bill Pascrell recently led 159 House members in a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy that urged extra support for these frontline workers.
“During a time of crisis, communities rely on local first responders as the first line of defense for protection and emergency response,” the letter states. “As you continue to develop further legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we urge you to include…items so our nation’s first responders can operate at full capacity as we fight the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Among the requested items was to create a presumption in the Public Safety Officer Benefit program to ensure death and/or disability benefits to safety officers; provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave should departments order the employee to self-quarantine due to potential COVID-19 exposure; and an assurance of hazard and overtime pay for officers and firefighters.
Additionally, backing New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s April 11 executive order requiring the increased use of face masks and gloves, Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker is pushing the Trump Administration to acquiring more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline workers at transit agencies.
In their letter to Federal Transit Administration Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams, the Senators asked the administration to assist those transit agencies in ensuring that all transit vehicles and employee facilities are disinfected regularly; passengers practice rear door boarding to maintain a safe distance between riders and transit operators; passengers cover faces with makeshift protective implements such as bandanas or scarves while riding public transit; and riders observe proper social distancing.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to spread rapidly, even after $25 billion was devoted by Congress for emergency funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Menendez and Booker stressed the urgency of the situation in the letter, pointing out dozens of deaths of transit workers from COVID-19 since it began to spread throughout certain U.S. regions that majorly depend on public transportation.