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Huizenga op-ed in the Detroit News: Congress should recognize Michigan's heroes, patriots

From visiting with loved ones to shopping at the grocery store, the coronavirus has changed our daily lives in more ways than we could have imagined.

While nearly every Michigan resident has experienced some type of change, perhaps the greatest has come for those working on the front lines. Whether it is our police and fire first responders, medical professionals or those keeping the shelves stocked in grocery stores, each of these individuals is playing a critical role during this pandemic. 

As policymakers in Lansing and Washington consider what next steps must be taken to provide relief and recovery, I believe thanking these incredibly hardworking Americans should be among our top priorities. 

That is why I introduced H.R. 6433, the Helping Emergency Responders Overcome Emergency Situations Act or HEROES Act. Under this bipartisan bill, first responders, medical professionals and senior caregivers working in a county with at least one COVID-19 patient would be awarded a four-month federal income tax holiday. 

Specifically, the HEROES Act would apply to law enforcement officers, corrections officers, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, doctors, pharmacists, hospital and licensed medical facility support staff and senior care facility staff members. Whether an individual is administering care, performing clinical support, sanitizing equipment or cleaning patient rooms in a licensed medical facility, they are included in this legislation.

The HEROES Act is modeled after the tax holiday our military service members receive while they are serving in an active combat zone. By using this model, we can reward those battling the coronavirus and minimize bureaucratic red tape while being fiscally responsible. 

While thanking our health care workers and first responders is critical, Michigan residents are also providing crucial services to ensure the lights stay on, the shelves stay stocked and the gas station stays fueled. 

I believe these hardworking Americans should also be rewarded. That is why I have introduced another piece of legislation that I have dubbed the “Patriot Bonus.” This measure would incentivize pay raises and bonuses for critical employees whether they work in sanitation, manufacture critical goods, drive a rig, provide childcare services or stock shelves at the grocery store. 

Under the Patriot Bonus, the federal government would provide tax credit for half of any form of wage increase put forward by an employer. If an employee is given a $5,000 bonus for work during this crisis, the employer would receive a tax credit of $2,500. The federal government can play a role in creating an environment where critical service employees are rewarded.

Southeast Michigan has been one of the hardest hit areas in the nation. From police officers to nurses, doctors and other medical professionals, helping these front-line heroes keep more of their hard-earned money is a great way to acknowledge their courage and sacrifice during an extraordinary time. Equally, we can apply free-market principles and support higher wages for individuals providing essential services so the most vulnerable in our communities can stay safe. 

While policymakers may have different approaches and opinions about restarting our economy, I believe we can come together to support those who treat the sick, keep the lights on and maintain our food supply.

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, serves Michigan’s 2nd congressional district.

This piece was originally published by the Detroit News on April 30, 2020
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