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Kentucky essential workers compete for $400 million in federal 'hero pay'

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Kentucky House Democratic Caucus
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Firefighters, police, corrections officials and nurses were among those advocating before a Democratic work group on Dec. 6 for some of the $400 million in federal funds coming to Kentucky. 

Representatives for groups of essential workers spoke at the first of two live streamed public hearings in Frankfort. They  want to get their share of the money as ‘bonus pay’ for serving during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The second public hearing will be on Dec. 15 and the 'Essential Workers Work Group' will continue to take written testimony through the end of December. 

Representatives recounted stories of extreme overtime, living in basements in order to avoid passing along COVID to their families, and fighting off physical and mental exhaustion. 

One of the those testifying about the stress endured by emergency personnel, as a group and individually, was Sgt. David Borders with Louisville Metro EMS. 

“I contracted COVID early, back in August, shortly after the pandemic started. I got that from a patient in which was in cardiac arrest from a nursing facility who had COVID. Even though I had every appropriate PPE on, I still contracted it," said Borders. "Obviously didn’t know it, took it home. My wife shortly got it after I did. My son contracted it after that.”

Kentucky Nurses Association CEO Delanor Manson said the group is requesting $100 million from the federal funds, the vast majority for retention bonuses. Some of the funding would also be used as an appreciation and and recognition campaign, and a portion for retention and recruitment of nursing faculty. 

Chief Nursing Officer for Baptist Health Corbin, Sherrie Mays, said during the height of the pandemic the staff was working in what felt like a war zone.

“And today we continue to fight this battle. We still have COVID patients in our facility. Staff are exhausted. They’ve had breaking points, there have been mental breaks, there have been deaths and there have been victories,” said Mays.

Gov. Andy Beshear asked GOP leaders to collaborate on the allocation of ‘hero pay,’ but Republicans rejected the offer. The legislature is expected to consider the measure during the next session, which begins Jan. 4.

The Democratic Caucus will hold a second public hearing on Dec. 15 in Frankfort. The hearing will be live streamed on the Facebook page of the Kentucky House Democratic Caucus. 

Anyone who wants to testify or submit written testimony should contact Shellee Hayden in the Kentucky House Democratic Caucus office or email her at Shellee.Hayden@lrc.ky.gov  Written testimony can be submitted  through the end of December. 

Gov. Andy Beshear asked GOP leaders to collaborate on the allocation of ‘hero pay’ but Republicans rejected the offer.

The legislature is expected to consider the measure during the next session, which begins Jan. 4.

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