Health care worker

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear wants to give bonuses to essential workers who have remained on the job throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

To thank health care workers, grocery store employees, police, fire, EMS, and others who put themselves at risk on the job, Beshear wants to allocate $400 million of American Rescue Plan funds "to honor the work that these folks have done, and encourage them to continue in their employment,” he said Monday.

Ryan Straw of the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police said the pandemic has been “tough” on first responders and their families, and he likes the idea of the bonus.

“Anything that puts money in the pockets of first responders — or, really, any of the essential workers — of course, we're going to be very much in support of,” Straw said.

Beshear said he is forming a “working group” to include members of both the executive branch and the General Assembly to iron out the details "to go through the 'who' and the 'how much,' to make sure that we do this right,” he said.

But determining the "who" and "how much" will be a tricky issue.

“We also need to think about the people who still haven't received their unemployment insurance check from Beshear's administration,” Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer said. “And we need to think about businesses that were shut down, locked down, closed down and their employees.”

“I think there are going to be some hard discussions about who would receive these bonuses, and they're not going to be easy decisions,” House Minority Floor Leader Rep. Joni Jenkins said.

Jenkins said she "likes the idea" of a bipartisan working group to address those issues.

But Thayer said Republicans have been working on a hero bonus bill of their own for months - and that should be the starting point.

“I don't know that we need to convene a working group and have a big dog and pony show,” Thayer said.

Straw said he just hopes lawmakers and the governor can come to an agreement.

“We really don't feel this is partisan issue," he said. "We hope that it does get passed and we appreciate it.”

The Republican-dominated legislature will have final say on any proposal when it convenes in January 2022. But Thayer said it could also be done in a special session as soon as next month along with legislative redistricting.

Only Beshear can call for a special session of the legislature and set the parameters.

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