NH first responder hazard pay criticized for excluding other workers

Some healthcare personnel and other essential workers are questioning why the plan was made exclusive to first responders

By Laura French

CONCORD, N.H. — After New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced that first responders in the state would receive hazard pay bonuses, some have criticized the plan for excluding other essential workers, including healthcare providers. 

The hazard pay plan provides full-time firefighters, EMS providers, police officers and corrections officers with $300 weekly stipends through the end of June for working during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as $150 weekly stipends for part-time first responders and volunteer firefighters and EMS providers. 

The program sparked controversy for excluding doctors, nurses, in-home care providers and other healthcare workers, as well as essential workers such as a grocer story staff, who may also be exposed to the virus, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader

"Governor Chris Sununu you should be ashamed of yourself; to not include the doctors, nurses, hospital personnel, those who are keeping people safe at home on hospice and caregivers providing needed personal assistance, let alone the cashiers at grocery stores," Gayle Spence Davis, an employee for a senior in-home care program, wrote in a Facebook post

She added that she believes first responders deserve hazard pay, but that they are only a "fraction" of the workers who should receive it. 

Another New Hampshire resident, Patty Miller, who is a peer support specialist at a medical center, wrote on Facebook, "The first responders knew when they chose that work they would be at times risking their lives. They get paid more and definitely have earned respect on a regular basis; however, when people become employees at a grocery store or gas station, or janitors or fast food employee etc. they did not think they would be risking their lives." 

Dalton Firefighter Brian Parks, who is eligible for the $150 a week stipend, responded to the post, according to the Union Leader. 

"Please do not downplay us first responders and firemen," Parks wrote. "We are on the front line. I myself got a stipend at the end of the year and am not paid during these months but you still can't call ourselves volunteer any more. We live in small towns and are out there in the line of fire." 

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