COVID-19 has created unprecedented uncertainty and turmoil in Americans’ personal and professional lives. Congress acted quickly and enacted a number of COVID-19 response laws; however, there is more that Congress can, and should, do to help alleviate the havoc caused by the pandemic.
Representative Bill Huizenga (R-MI-2) has introduced H.R.6433, the Helping Emergency Responders Overcome Emergency Situations Act of 2020, known as the “HEROES Act of 2020” to provide some financial relief to qualified first responders.
The HEROES Act currently defines “qualified first responders” capable of receiving federal financial assistance as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, law enforcement officers, corrections officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians or paramedics who provide services in a county that has at least one confirmed case of COVID-19. ASRT is advocating that this definition be revised to include other health care professionals who are on the frontlines fighting this pandemic, especially radiologic technologists and radiation therapists.
The Department of Homeland Security has classified radiologic technologists and radiation therapists as members of the essential critical infrastructure workforce. In the Department of Labor’s ranking of the risk of health care workers contracting COVID-19, radiologic technologists were given a risk score of 84.1, just below registered nurses (86.1) and respiratory therapists (84.2); and higher than licensed practical nurses (82.1) and critical care nurses (81.7). Radiation therapists who work in close proximity with patients receiving cancer treatments have an even higher risk score of 92.4.
The HEROES Act would create a period where health professionals and first responders are exempted from federal income tax on up to $50,000 of gross salary in counties where there is at least one confirmed case of COVID-19. This 4-month tax holiday will assist health care workers who may have incurred additional costs during the pandemic for childcare, senior care and protective measures to keep from spreading the coronavirus to their families.
ASRT knows radiologic technologists and radiation therapists are frontline health care professionals who have heroically and courageously provide care to patients while putting their own health at risk to perform imaging examinations and continue radiation therapy treatments for COVID-19 patients, and strongly advocates that they should be recognized as doing so by Federal Government.