The United States has entered a third peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, with cases spiking across the country. Many experts anticipate that the winter months will be the worst yet, and a new study projects that the U.S. could surpass 500,000 COVID-19 deaths by the end of February. As we begin this even deadlier phase of the pandemic, the country’s 50 million frontline essential workers are among the most vulnerable. Are they receiving fair compensation for the worsening hazards they face on the job?

In this report, we look at the state of hazard pay for COVID-19’s frontline essential workers. We follow up on the recommendations we made in our April report, which called on Congress to pass federally mandated hazard pay. At the beginning of the pandemic, the prospects of hazard pay were bright; in April, the House of Representatives passed legislation to create a $200 billion hazard pay fund, while dozens of large companies were offering small, temporary hourly pay bumps and bonuses to frontline workers.

Seven months later, those hopes have largely been dashed. While the hazards of COVID-19 are growing worse, few frontline essential workers are receiving any hazard pay at all. Most large retail employers ended temporary pay bumps months ago, despite many companies earning record sales, eye-popping profits, and soaring stock prices. After facing strong resistance in the Republican-controlled Senate, House Democrats dropped their hazard pay proposal from their revised legislation in September. Innovative hazard pay initiatives by state governments have been among the few bright spots, but the scale of these efforts is small compared to the need.

Read the full article about America's essential workers by Molly Kinder, Laura Stateler, and Julia Du at Brookings.