At least 59 MTA workers have died during the COVID-19 pandemic - and now the transportation agency is seeking to help ease their families' financial burdens.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will pay the surviving spouse, beneficiary or estate of the deceased worker a lump sum of $500,000, the agency said. This follows the parameters for the so-called Line of Duty benefit rather than the Active Duty benefit, which pays out $50,000 in the event of a death.
"We can’t bring back our heroic co-workers but we can make sure their families are taken care of, “ Local 100 President Tony Utano said. “We will continue to fight in Albany for additional benefits to help the families left behind and to further honor our lost heroes’ great sacrifice to this city and state.”
Union officials who represent MTA bus drivers believe transit and government officials were too slow to act. “I think our officials got it wrong," said John Costa, international president for the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents MTA bus drivers in Queens and Staten Island. "We needed those masks earlier. We needed to barricade them better in their compartments, in their driving areas, and we needed to have less people on the buses."
“We’re exposed to more people on a daily basis," said Richard Davis, who represents Manhattan and Bronx bus workers for Transport Workers Union Local 100. "More one-on-one contact.” The MTA had discouraged workers from wearing masks,
Before bus driver Ernesto Hernandez fell ill and died from coronavirus, he told his son he wanted protective gear. “Gloves, mask, eyewear, anything like that he was never given that, until he got sick and did not go back to work," Hernandez's son, Steven Jimenez tells NY1. “He said he wish he had some. But he said none of his colleagues and no one he knew had it.”
There's about 2,200 MTA employees who have tested positive among the 6,000 who have fallen sick or self-quarantined.