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Essential workers tell legislators why they deserve frontline worker bonus

On Monday, members of the Kentucky House Democrats who created the Essential Workers Work Group listened to testimony from frontline workers about why they dese
Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 5:52 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Members of the Kentucky House Democrats who created the Essential Workers Work Group listened to testimony from frontline workers on Monday about why they deserve a potential essential worker bonus from the state.

In October, Gov. Andy Beshear proposed giving essential workers who kept their jobs from March 6, 2020 to March 6, 2022 an essential worker bonus to improve retention and tell frontline staff, “thank you.”

“The idea that those dollars are there for everybody who sticks it out for two full years is something I think all of us as Kentuckians should support,” Beshear said.

There could be as much as $400M up for grabs; the money would come from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.

Not everyone was on board. Neither Kentucky Republican House members, nor Republican Senate members agreed to send a list of jobs that should qualify to Beshear.

However, Kentucky House Democrats formed the Essential Workers Work Group and held its first public hearing Monday to listen to essential workers, including nurses, firefighters, corrections officers, and EMS about why they should receive an essential worker bonus.

Delanor Manson, CEO of the Kentucky Nurses Association told legislators nurses make up more than 50 percent of healthcare staff in Kentucky, however, the group will only ask for one fourth of the $400M, citing staff shortages and mistreatment from the public.

Manson said some of the money should be used to reward local nurses who stayed in Kentucky hospitals throughout the pandemic, resisting temptations from travel nurse agencies which can pay $1,400 per day in some cases.

“As you saw, there is one agency that’s offering $1,400 a day, so $1,000 isn’t a lot. It’s a token. It says you matter,” Manson said.

Firefighters testified they too deserve a bonus from the state, because they risk their lives just as much as many other professions without any ‘thank you’s’ or benefits.

“While they definitely did not get into this profession for excessive pay or benefits, or even praise, it’s disheartening to see others receive financial recognition for their extraordinary dedication and sacrifices, while (fire fighters’) dedication and sacrifices have been ignored,” John Baer, president of the Kentucky Professional Fire Fighters said.

If lawmakers choose to include essential worker bonuses in the next fiscal budget, workers could get paid after March 2022.

The next and final essential worker public hearing will be held Dec. 15 at 1:30 p.m. at the Capitol Annex.

To sign up to speak, email Shellee.Hayden@lrc.ky.gov.

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