McNeill calls for movement on bill to benefit first responders, frontline workers

HARRISBURG, Aug. 21 – State Rep. Jeanne McNeill, D-Lehigh, is calling for additional funding to assist first responders and others working in essential and frontline jobs who were omitted from the hazard pay grants awarded by the Department of Community and Economic Development earlier this week.

“While Monday’s list included a list of 639 employers from across Pennsylvania and provided $50 million in hazard pay funding, sadly, the program omitted many of our frontline heroes,” McNeill said. “Our firefighters and our EMS workers, they have been putting themselves in harm’s way since the very beginning of this pandemic. While the DCED processed $900 million in requests, only $300 million met program eligibility guidelines.”

The list of DCED employers who received funding can be found here.

“We have to do more in regard to our frontline heroes and first responders,” McNeill said. “We must do more, and that’s why I’m hopeful legislation to address this issue will move out of committee and to full House sooner, rather than later.”

Introduced in May by Rep. Jason Ortitay, R-Allegheny/Washington, and co-sponsored by McNeill, H.B. 2538, would create a $500 million “Financial Assistance for Front Line Workers Program” to support those employed in the following “frontline and/or essential positions”:

  • Hospital or hospital network.
  • Long-term care facility.
  • Retail grocery store.
  • Licensed pharmacy.
  • Police department.
  • Fire department.
  • Volunteer fire department.
  • EMS company.
  • Social advocacy organization.
  • Financial institution.

Under the bill, to be eligible for reimbursement from the Commonwealth, these employees would have to apply for reimbursement through a process established by the state’s Department of Revenue. Additionally, the employee would have to have been working at the employer’s physical location and not been working remotely. 

House Bill 2538 was sent to the House Finance Committee in May.

“I’m calling on House leadership, specifically, the chair of the Finance Committee, to recognize the responsibility we have to our constituents, and the urgency of this issue, to move this legislation from committee to the chamber,” McNeill said.