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GOP pitches plan for $250 million hazard pay

(The Center Square) – Republican members of the Frontline Workers Bonus Pay Working Group pitched their plan to provide a total of $250 million bonuses to some COVID-19 frontline workers on Thursday.

The proposal includes $1,200 in bonus pay for nurses, first responders, corrections officers, long-term care workers, and hospice providers. Eligibility requires the workers couldn’t work from home, received less than one month of unemployment, and worked a minimum of 1,200 hours between March and December of 2020. There is no income cap on the proposal, and an application process will provide bonus pay as soon as the application is approved.

“We’ve said from the beginning, these bonuses need to be an amount that is meaningful, prioritized for those who took the most risk, and recognizes the workers who kept us safe,” Sen. Karin Housley, R – Stillwater, said in a statement. “We only have $250 million to work with, but it’s enough to prioritize the healthcare workers who donned PPE and cared for COVID positive patients. It’s enough to recognize our first responders who doubled down on an already risky job when the work didn’t allow distancing or PPE. We can recognize the inspiring work of hospice staff who were there for our loved ones when we were not allowed to be.”

The working group met eight times and heard from dozens of testifiers across many professions vying for a piece of the $250 million. But the more workers are eligible, the smaller their payout.

The legislature could act as soon as Gov. Tim Walz calls lawmakers back for a special session. 

Minnesota received $2.8 billion from the federal government under the American Rescue Plan designated for infrastructure investments, replenish lost government tax revenue, and pay workers performing essential services.

“We owe these frontline workers a huge debt of gratitude for their dedicated and tireless efforts to help keep Minnesotans safe during the most challenging stages of the pandemic,” Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said in a statement. “The Senate is ready to get this bonus pay into the pockets of these workers as quickly as possible when the Governor calls us back for a special session.”

Members of the DFL party have pushed for increasing the payout from $250 million, but Republicans have opposed the measure.


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