COVID-19 has affected all of our lives in some manner. For our family it means my wife goes to work at a food processing plant, putting herself in harm’s way daily because she’s been classified by the federal government as an “essential” worker.

I’m proud that she hasn’t backed away from this challenge. However, I am wondering, where is the financial compensation for these workers who risk their health every day to go to a job? If health care workers, first responders, food processors, etc., are considered front-line workers, I’m certain an increase in pay would make them feel more “essential.”

The company my wife works for (Tyson Foods) had 50-plus employees test positive for COVID-19 this month. Yet, she has to continue reporting to work each day for the same rate of pay as before the virus. Working while afraid that the person(s) next to her could be contagious or asymptomatic. Currently thousands of Mainers are out of work and the state is paying them their standard unemployment benefits, plus the federally approved and funded extra $600 per week. Again, where is the wage increase for “essential” workers?

At what cost should my wife and others in this situation have to swallow their fear while doing “essential” work for their state and country without any additional financial compensation? I know my wife would gladly spend quarantine at home with us, making an extra $600 a week, but she never had that choice, because she is busy being an undercompensated “essential” worker.

Shaun Donlin

Portland

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