Ky. lawmakers hold public hearing to consider hero pay for essential workers

Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 2:10 AM EST
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT/WYMT) - Kentucky lawmakers are considering who may get a piece of the $400 million in Rescue Plan money the governor wants designated for hero pay.

Last week lawmakers heard from nurses and first responders. On Wednesday, even more testified from educators, social workers and sanitation workers packed a committee room with appeals.

More than one dozen were scheduled to speak, but many more than that filed into one of the largest committee rooms in the Capitol annex.

“So I salute you, for the challenge you have taken, particularly over the last two years now,” Rep. Derrick Graham said.

Teachers and teacher groups talked of working and adapting during the pandemic, from teaching at home, to traveling on school buses, to picking up packets— to facing uncertain risks to their own health.

“I didn’t calculate the hours I worked from March to May that year. But I can assure you most of the work I did occurred outside the traditional 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. schedule,” said Lori McKeehan, an elementary teacher from Knox County.

“What started as what we thought was a temporary closure of two weeks turned into two years of trauma and disruption,” said Eddie Campbell, president of the Kentucky Education Association.

Educators say the dedication teachers showed during the pandemic was seen again more recently, in western Kentucky when some teachers went door to door to check on their students.

“And I shudder to think what will happen across Kentucky when teachers stop showing up,” said Dr. Donielle Lovell with WKU.

Last week, Governor Beshear said he will include social workers in his proposal for hero pay, when he announced pay hikes given the large exodus of personnel recently. On Wednesday they appealed to lawmakers.

“This bonus could alleviate the negative impact to give workers some incentive that they were appreciated for the work they have done. Hopefully those that are here would not leave and we can retain them,” said Taffy Ratliff, field office supervisor.

Many said the pandemic simply made bad situations with turnover a lot worse.

The House Democratic Caucus will hold another hearing virtually at 1:30 p.m. next Tuesday on their Facebook page for those professions not included in Wednesday’s or last week’s presentations.

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