Beshear wants to use $400M in American Rescue Plan dollars for bonuses to essential workers

Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 10:13 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - For a year and a half, frontline and essential workers have come face-to-face with the risk of being exposed to COVID-19, and surges like this most recent one have hospitals pushing their limits.

“In the emergency room, we’re packed full. I mean there are days when there are 20-30 people out in the lobby waiting for a bed,” said Rebecca Harper, a nurse at King’s Daughters Medical Center.

Through the trying times, doctors and nurses have gone into their hospitals to save lives, and treat those facing the toughest battles against COVID.

“We are... We are struggling,” said Meg Pyper, a charge nurse at UK Hospital. “It’s hard to see that much loss, and that much heartache and palpable sorrow for such a long period of time.”

Monday Governor Andy Beshear announced plans to reward those on the frontlines, and other essential workers, by using $400 million in American Rescue Plan money to give bonuses for those who have worked through the pandemic, dating back to March 6, 2020.

“As we are on month 18, almost 19 of this pandemic, it’s important to have something out there to continue to push them to move on. Something to look forward to. Something that you could call a reward or a hero bonus,” Gov. Beshear said.

The governor said in the coming days, he will send the recommendation and the framework for the plan to the General Assembly. He said a working group of lawmakers and the executive branch will need to work together to go through who is deemed qualified, and how much is given.

“There need to be a lot of details that get worked through. That needs to have a lot of collaboration, and we hope cooperation,” Gov. Beshear said.

Examples of who could qualify for the bonus include educators, first responders, grocery store employees, and factor workers. The plan won’t come up before the General Assembly until the regular session in January.

In Lexington, there is some controversy over “hero pay” as well. The city is getting millions of dollars in federal funding and is still deciding how to spend it.

Council members have proposed setting aside $15 million for essential workers. In a meeting last week, streets and roads workers took issue with the fact they aren’t considered essential workers and wouldn’t be eligible.

The proposal would not include any employees of private businesses. Right now, nothing has been officially decided.

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