What We Know About the Essential Kentucky Beshear Government Employee Bonus

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said he will send state lawmakers this week a framework for a plan to give some essential workers a bonus next year, using $400 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The plan involves bonuses for people who have worked on the frontlines of the pandemic for two full years starting in March 2022, with the bonus serving as both a reward and an incentive to keep their current jobs for another six months.

The governor said he hopes to form a task force with the legislature to flesh out the details of the plan, which could be passed by the Kentucky General Assembly when it resumes session in January.

Some Republican lawmakers, including Senate Speaker Robert Stivers, have been urging Beshear for weeks to instead call a special session of the Legislature this fall to fund immediate bonuses, but only for frontline workers in hospitals and nurseries. retirement homes.

Here’s what we know about Beshear’s plan:

Who would be eligible for a bonus?

Beshear said it would ultimately be up to the task force to determine who is eligible, but he referenced several different categories of workers he believes should be included.

First presenting his plan at a press conference on Monday, the governor mentioned not only healthcare workers, but also grocery store workers, emergency medical technicians, police, firefighters and some laborers. factory. His press release that day also mentioned educators.

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Beshear said Thursday that US Treasury guidelines released for the American Rescue Plan Act have a fixed definition of who is eligible for such bonuses, including those “on the front line, providing essential services, having a lot of interaction with the public during this time and/or handle things that have been passed”, such as in warehouse work.

The governor said they should also talk about including some agriculture, sanitation workers and those involved in “setting up and running our power grid,” in addition to employees of the local health departments and other government employees who regularly interact with the public.

How big would a worker’s bonus be?

It will ultimately depend on how many types of workers are eligible and how much money to fund them of $400 million, as Beshear suggested.

Beshear mentioned Thursday that federal guidelines for ARPA funding may also prohibit bonuses for workers earning above a certain level, in addition to “some different equity considerations.”

When could workers receive the bonus?

If approved by the legislature, workers could receive the bonus at some point after working for two full years of the pandemic, which landed in Kentucky in March 2020.

However, the next round of federal ARPA funding for Kentucky – just over $1 billion – will not be disbursed until this May, and the total balance of ARPA funds that the state has received has already been assigned for other purposes.

Are there alternative bonus plans?

Stivers and Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, both pushed Beshear to call another special session to fund workers’ premiums, especially for nurses and other healthcare workers in hospitals and nursing homes facing hardships. critical labor shortages.

They and other Republican senators had hoped Beshear’s call for the special session last month would have included such bonuses, as Kentucky’s hospital, nursing home and nursing associations had asked for immediate help. .

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Beshear resisted calls for another special session, saying there were no more ARPA funds to claim until next year. He also fears that workers will quit after receiving an immediate bonus and this could lead to a bidding war with traveling nursing agencies stealing staff and then raising hospital rates.

Stivers suggested that Beshear could use planned excess or rain funds to distribute bonuses before the end of the year, or temporarily redirect ARPA funds from water and broadband infrastructure projects where they are currently appropriated.

Contact journalist Joe Sonka at jsonka@courierjournal.com and follow him on Twitter at @joesonka. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today at the top of this page.

Michelle J. Kelley