Nurses Endorse the House Stimulus HEROES Act
House Bill will prompt mass production and distribution of PPE, mandate OSHA standard for nurses and other health care workers
Today National Nurses United, the largest union of registered nurses in the country, endorsed the fourth coronavirus stimulus package introduced by House Democrats. The union, which represents more than 150,000 nurses across the country praised the bill for including the protections that nurses and other frontline workers need, and for addressing many of the other challenges that working families and communities are facing during this pandemic.
“For more than two months, nurses around the country have been calling on Congress and the White House to mandate a federal occupational safety and health standard for frontline health care workers and to ensure that we have the personal protective equipment we need to stay healthy and alive during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Bonnie Castillo, RN, executive director of NNU. “We applaud Speaker Pelosi and the House Democrats for hearing our calls and addressing these issues in the HEROES Act.”
The legislation, which was introduced on Tuesday, includes the Every Worker Protection Act of 2020, which would mandate the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to promulgate an Emergency Temporary Standard to ensure that employers protect workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The NNU petitioned OSHA for an Emergency Temporary Standard on March 4, 2020, and have been advocating for a congressional mandate for the standard since that time. This standard would prevent hospital managers and other employers from locking up personal protective equipment or providing incorrect protective equipment, and it would ensure that employees receive the education and training needed to use PPE safely.
The legislation would also ensure the increased production and delivery of PPE and other medical supplies, through the use of the Defense Production Act and new systems for reporting, transparency, and coordination of supply chain logistics. The bill establishes a Medical Supplies Response Coordinator who would coordinate all efforts of the federal government related to the supply and distribution of critical medical supplies and equipment, and also includes the COVID-19 Emergency Medical Supplies Enhancement Act, which would ensure the sufficient use of the Defense Production Act for increased production of PPE and other necessary medical supplies.
“By including the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard and a detailed plan for increased production, transparent reporting, and efficient delivery of PPE, the HEROES Act, if enacted, will save the lives of our nurses across the country,” said Castillo. “We call on every member of Congress to swiftly pass this legislation through both the House and the Senate.”
The union also applauded the bill for including premium pay for all essential workers, including nurses, across the country who have been risking their lives to do their jobs and care for patients. Additionally, NNU praised the bill for including strong appropriations for public health programs, state, local, and tribal governments, mass testing and tracing programs, and the postal service. The union also applauded the bill for providing child and family care subsidies for frontline workers, eliminating the exemption of health care workers and emergency responders from emergency FMLA leave and from emergency paid sick leave, increasing Medicaid funding, housing assistance, and extending unemployment benefits through January.
“Nurses across the country commend Speaker Pelosi and the House Democrats for putting together a fourth stimulus bill that will protect frontline workers, and that is responsive to the needs of our families and our communities,” said Castillo.