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MONTGOMERY, Ala. – While thousands of Alabamians have filed for unemployment benefits in the past few weeks, essential workers are still making their daily commutes.   But is their risk worth the reward?  One human rights advocacy group believes the state should be taking better care of its essential employees.   

The Center for American Progress said employees whose wages have not kept up with inflation and increasing costs are feeling the biggest economic crunch during this crisis. Minimum wage workers make up a significant portion of essential employees.

“We need higher minimum wage to help reflect the essential role that working folks play in our society,” explained Chris Sanders of Alabama Arise.

Some of those workers don’t make enough money to save for a rainy day.

“Folks working in grocery stores, pharmacies, delivery drivers. They’re essential to our society and they need to be paid commensurate with that,” Sanders added.

Many minimum wage essential employees don’t have the option to work from home, putting them at even higher risk for COVID-19 exposure.

Alabama Arise said its more important now, than ever for the state to step in and make sure people have the healthcare they need.

“We need to expand Medicaid,” said Chris Sanders. “No one should be worried about going to get lifesaving medical care just because they’re afraid of going bankrupt.”

Sanders said that endangers not only that person’s life, but the lives of everyone around them.

“It does not make good moral or economic sense for us to not ensure that everybody’s able to have health coverage and go get treatment when they need it,” he concluded.