FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Governor Andy Beshear said Monday that he would recommend to the Kentucky state legislature that $400 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act be used to provide bonuses to essential workers.
"We believe that this is a positive step and will be an effective plan," Beshear said.
The governor made the announcement during his weekly COVID-19 briefing. He explained that the funds will not be made available until 2022 when the general assembly reconvenes for the next regular session.
"As opposed to providing bonuses through other means right now and having people quit or leave after they got it," Beshear explained. "The idea that those dollars are there for everybody who sticks it out for two whole years is something that I think all of us as Kentuckians should support."
The governor said that he will send a recommendation or framework for a plan to the legislature within the next ten days. He also said he hopes a working group that consists of legislators can iron out the details of a plan.
LEX 18 reached out to staff of Democratic and Republican legislative leadership for a response to the governor's proposal.
House Democratic Leaders Joni Jenkins, Derrick Graham, and Angie Hatton issued the following statement:
“As difficult as life has been for all of us during the pandemic, there is no doubt that we would be in far worse shape without the commitment and sacrifice of our essential workers. That is why we think Governor Beshear’s hero-pay proposal is a proper way to thank them for their many contributions. It rewards those who have been on the front lines since COVID-19 first arrived, and this use of federal relief funds is both financially feasible and economically smart since it would pour hundreds of millions of dollars back into our local communities.”
As of Monday evening, LEX 18 had not heard back from Republican leadership. However, Senate President Robert Stivers (R) and other Republican leaders have previously advocated for a special session to address the staffing shortage in hospitals and help retain health care workers.
It is not clear who will qualify as an "essential worker," but Beshear did say he believes health care personnel, first responders, and grocery store workers should be eligible for bonuses.