State employees urge passage of another big coronavirus relief bill

The union representing Pioneer Home nurses, probation officers and other essential state employees says Alaska needs more help from the federal government and urging passage of the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill.

“The Senate has a vital duty to ease and reduce injury to working families in this country by passing at least $700 billion in aid for state and local governments,” said Jake Metcalfe, executive director of the Alaska State Employees Association.

Sitka Pioneer Home nurse Kelly Ferguson says front-line state employees need hazard pay, widespread coronavirus testing and reliable safety gear. She said another state employee sent her a picture of an inadequate sneeze guard erected in her office.

SEE ALSO: Some Alaska travelers report long waits for COVID-19 test results. Health officials say fixes are underway.

“This is so flimsy literally the first person who comes in who touches it or sneezes on it, it will fall apart, so it doesn’t protect her desk at all and she’s concerned for her safety,” Ferguson said.

The U.S. House has already passed the HEROES Act. It would, among other things, establish a fund to provide an extra $13-per-hour in hazard pay for essential workers, send direct payments to households and relieve some student debts.

Senate Republican leaders say it’s filled with liberal wish-list items. 

SEE ALSO: Anchorage police, fire departments remain disproportionately white, despite diversity efforts

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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