Democratic members of the Committee on Homeland Security introduced new legislation to address the impact coronavirus has had on the Transportation Security Administration’s frontline workforce. During the coronavirus pandemic, TSA’s 49,000 Transportation Security Officers, along with thousands more Federal Air Marshals and canine handlers, have continued to do their job protecting our skies despite the high risk of contracting the virus. As of May 1st, 509 TSA employees have tested positive for COVID-19, and, sadly, five have died.
Representative Val Demings sponsored The Coronavirus Workers’ Compensation for TSA Employees Act (H.R. 656), which would provide a presumption of workplace causation for TSA frontline employees who contract COVID-19 and apply for workers’ compensation benefits. They would not have to prove infection happened on the job, which is the current rule and would be difficult for coronavirus infections.
“TSA employees are required to interact daily with the public, increasing their risk of exposure to COVID -19,” said Congresswoman Demings. “This necessary legislation would provide a presumption of workplace causation. They are there for us every day. If they get sick, we need to give them the help they deserve.”
Sponsored by Rep. Lou Correa, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security, and Rep. Dina Titus, The Health Care Opportunities for Transportation Security Administration Employees Act (H.R. 6647) would require TSA to provide its part-time employees with a greater cost share for health care insurance premiums after TSA significantly reduced this benefit last year. This bill would also allow all TSA employees to adjust their health care enrollment during national emergencies.
“TSA is the thin blue line that protects our families and us from those that would like to harm us by smuggling items of mass destruction,” said Congressman Correa. “These security professionals have consistently put themselves in harm’s way throughout the coronavirus pandemic to protect us. No TSA employees should have to worry about getting treatment for COVID-19. They deserve quality and affordable healthcare.”
“TSA employees are making sacrifices to serve our nation during this pandemic and the least we can do is provide them all with quality, affordable health care,” said Congresswoman Titus. “No TSA employee should have to worry about affording treatment if they get sick. I’m grateful to work with Congressman Correa on this important legislation.”
Sponsored by Rep. Donald Payne, Jr., The Hazardous Duty Pay for Frontline Federal Workers Act (H.R. 6655) would require OPM to create a hazardous duty pay category for frontline Federal workers, including TSA employees, who contract or have been exposed to COVID-19. TSOs would be compensated appropriately to recognize the risks they face.
“I introduced this bill because we need to reward the workers who have risked their lives for us during this global pandemic,” said Congressman Payne on his bill. “The sacrifices they have made deserve to be recognized. We have thanked them plenty. Now it is time to show them how much we value their work and efforts during this public health and economic crisis. I hope that all private companies follow my lead and increase the pay of all essential workers until we find a treatment for this disease.”
The Democratic members hope these pieces of legislation are included in future coronavirus response measures.