Gov. Andy Beshear recommended Monday that Kentucky use $400 million in federal pandemic relief assistance to provide bonuses next year for beleaguered health-care staff and other frontline workers who provided essential services during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Democratic governor said he intends to send a framework of the plan to the state’s Republican-dominated legislature within the next 10 days. Lawmakers would make the final decision on appropriating the federal aid.
Beshear’s recommendation comes as many Kentucky hospitals continue struggling with chronic staffing shortages to treat an influx of coronavirus patients — most of them unvaccinated against the virus. Some prominent Senate Republicans have urged the governor to call lawmakers into a special legislative session this year to direct immediate aid to hospitals to overcome staffing woes.
The governor said Monday that the federal money won’t be available until next year, when lawmakers are back in regular session. Beshear also expanded the number of workers potentially eligible for bonuses, mentioning emergency responders, grocery store workers, educators and factory workers employed by companies deemed essential during the pandemic. By the time the bonuses might be awarded next year, essential workers will have spent some two years putting themselves at risk.