The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board has reached an agreement with its employees and unions on compensation for the families of employees who have died from the new coronavirus.
The agency, which has lost 83 employees to COVID-19, on Wednesday unanimously ratified an agreement, which covers both union and non-union workers, to make a $500,000 payment to the spouse, beneficiary or estate of any worker who dies from the disease. The MTA will also provide health insurance for three years to the spouse and dependent children up to 26 years old. The agency is also supporting calls for the federal government to provide hazard pay for front-line MTA employees who continue to show up for work during the pandemic.
“Our own heroic workers have sacrificed an immense amount to ensure that other heroes can do their jobs during this unprecedented crisis,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye. “We will never be able to fully honor their sacrifice, but today marks an important step in recognizing all that they have given to the region in one of its most challenging moments. We remain forever indebted for their service and our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of those who have tragically passed as a result of the virus.”
The MTA also announced that it is taking increased steps to promote employees’ safety. It has installed plexiglass barriers at subway work locations, bus depots and central maintenance facilities, and begun a pilot program to install vinyl shields on buses to further separate bus drivers and riders.
To minimize passengers’ contact with drivers, buses last month began only opening its rear doors, and passengers may not sit in front of the bus. As fare boxes are generally in front of the bus, with the exception of SBS buses, buses are now essentially free.
The MTA is also staggering reporting locations and break times, to improve social distancing.