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‘It is too late for him’ | Widow of Quantico worker pushes for Senate to take up bill to protect federal employees during the pandemic

WUSA9 first brought you this story in July, and now we're pushing senators for answers about how Senators will get these protections passed into law.

WASHINGTON — Last month, for the first time in 27 years, Christina Suthammanont had to celebrate her husband Chai's birthday without him. Chai worked in the kitchen at one of the daycare centers on Quantico Marine Corps Base. He died in May after catching COVID-19. 

The Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act was drafted to prevent what happened to him from repeating. It bill is awaiting a hearing by a Senate committee after passing in the full House of Representatives.

“It's very emotional because it is too late for him,” Christina said.

The conditions at her husband's job made her feel changes were needed to protect federal workers. Chai's legislation requires every federal agency to develop a plan to bring employees back to work. It needs to include details about reopening offices, including what personal protection the agencies will provide, cleaning protocols and plans for employees who are high-risk.

“If his passing has brought about something that makes them more visible and be protected and informed, that's a tremendous,” Christina said. “I just think of it as the good that comes out of his passing.”

RELATED: ‘It was entirely preventable’ | Widow of Quantico worker who died of COVID-19 complications pushes for workforce protections

Virginia Senator Mark Warner is carrying the bill through the Senate. The Commonwealth is home to one of the largest populations of federal workers in the country.

Credit: Christina Suthammanont
Chai Suthammanont died after catching COVID-19.

“Chai died potentially because there were not appropriate safety protocols in place and in his memory we ought to make sure that this becomes law,” Warner told us.

Sponsor: Sen. Warner, Mark R. [D-VA] (Introduced 09/30/2020) Committees: Senate - Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Latest Action: Senate - 09/30/2020 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Warner said he's talked to Republicans who are supportive, but right now, the committee hasn't set a hearing date for Chai's bill. This, despite some offices reopening and an increase in COVID-19 cases.

We asked Warner if he feels a sense of urgency to get this bill into law.

“We shouldn't be kicking the can down; this needs to be done,” he said. “Let's give those workers the assurance that their healthcare safety, their personal safety in the COVID era, is going to be protected.”

RELATED: House passes bill after death of Quantico worker to protect federal workers during the pandemic

Christina thinks this legislation could truly help Chai's fellow workers left behind in federal offices and possibly save their lives.

“It makes me proud of him because it's what he would have done,” she added.


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