AT&T paying coronavirus front-line workers 20% bonus

As the coronavirus pandemic has left millions of Americans working from home and relying on streaming services for entertainment and apps for delivery of food and other essentials, telecommunications networks have played a crucial role.

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To keep its network running, AT&T said on Thursday that it was paying a 20 percent bonus to its front-line union employees above their regular hourly base rate.

FILE - An illustration of the AT&T logo seen displayed on a smartphone with a computer model of the COVID-19 coronavirus on the background. (Photo by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The company is also offering as much as 160 hours of excused time off for employees who have tested positive for the coronavirus, who are at higher risk due to underlying health conditions, who have to watch children at home or who are acting as the primary caregiver for a family member diagnosed with COVID-19.

More than 76,000 people in the U.S. had been diagnosed with the virus as of Thursday, and more than 1,000 people had died. Worldwide, the number of cases surged to more than 511,000 and more than 23,000 people have been killed.

AT&T already said it was waiving data limits for its internet customers and closing 40 percent of its retail stores in light of the pandemic.

“Connectivity is always essential to our customers – doctors and nurses, first responders, governments, banks, grocery stores, pharmacies and others delivering vital services,” AT&T Communications CEO Jeff McElfresh wrote in an open letter earlier this month. “It’s even more critical during a public health crisis that’s challenging everyone. In fact, as a critical infrastructure provider, AT&T believes we have a civic duty to step up and keep our customers and communities connected.”

AT&T said on Thursday that it will also waive fees for personnel on select U.S. Navy ships to make calls through April 30, provide deployable cell sites at no additional charge for public safety agencies on FirstNet and waive late fees upon request for consumer and small business wireless, home phone and broadband customers affected by the pandemic.

More than 100 million people in the U.S. and close to 3 million businesses use AT&T Communications for TV, mobile or broadband internet service, according to the company.