The bonus pay for essential workers varies greatly between states

For putting health on the line during the coronavirus pandemic, prison guards in Missouri received an additional $ 250 per stipend. Teachers in Georgia received a $ 1,000 bonus. And in Vermont, nurses, counselors, sales staff and many others have earned as much as $ 2,000.

Over the past year, about one-third of the United States has used federal relief aid COVID-19 to reward workers considered essential who are referred to work during the pandemic. But who was qualified for these bonuses – and how much they received – varied widely, according to an Associated Press review. While some were paid thousands of dollars, others with similar jobs elsewhere received nothing.

When society reopens, the drive to provide payment for pandemic hazards seems to be fading – although the federal government has expanded the ability of state and local governments to provide retroactive compensation under a 350-euro aid package. billion dollars promulgated by President Joe Biden in March.

So far, only a few states have committed to paying workers more with the money from the American Rescue Plan.

Florida gives $ 1,000 bonus to teachers and first responders. Minnesota plans to distribute $ 250 million in bonuses to essential workers, though a special panel will not determine who qualifies until the end of this year.

This past week, Hawaii Gov. David Ige vetoed a budget forecast to pay teachers a $ 2,200 bonus. The Democratic governor said lawmakers did not have the authority to tell the state Department of Education how to use the federal money.

Some states remain reluctant to enact bonus programs.

An Oregon proposal to use federal pandemic aid to provide bonuses of up to $ 2,000 for essential workers failed to enter the balance sheet that went into effect July 1, despite a union lobbying campaign that included thousands of emails and hundreds of phone calls to lawmakers. The proposal would cover workers in numerous fields, including education, health care, public safety and transportation.

“I don’t think anyone has objected,” said Melissa Unger, executive director of Local Union Service Employees 503. But “no one has given priority.”

Although states have until the end of 2024 to decide how to spend the latest federal aid, some advocates are concerned the realistic window to provide job bonuses may be closed as much of society reopens.

“Unfortunately, the longer it takes to do so, the less it will be on the minds of voters and policy makers,” said Molly Kinder, a nonprofit member of the Brookings Institution who keeps track of payment of pandemic hazards.

Premium payment is one of the few options provided to states in the Biden aid package. States can also use the money to replace budget gaps, help businesses and families affected by the economic recession, fund certain infrastructure projects and pay for public health programs such as COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.

Illinois lawmakers have used federal money for dozens of budget initiatives that went into effect July 1 – from $ 75,000 for a high school mentoring and violence prevention program to $ 200 million of dollars for hospitals. Nothing was destined for an extra pandemic payout, even if Illinois had paid it in the past.

Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration gave a temporary pay rise of 12% last year to nearly 24,000 state workers whose jobs put them at risk of hiring COVID-19. Most of the $ 62 million cost was covered with federal funds.

“For the sense of Morality, it was a critical thing for my colleagues and me,” said Crosby Smith, curator at a state home for the disabled developed near Chicago. “Because at that time, when COVID hit our structure … we were abandoned.”

Smith and his girlfriend were among numerous staff and residents at the Ludeman Developmental Center who contracted the virus last year. He said the dangerous money has helped him pay off credit cards and avoid further debts when buying clothes and shoes.

Most states that have provided COVID-19 pay dangerous amounts of money under the Coronavirus Act, Relief and Economic Security Act signed since then by President Donald Trump in March 2020. While some states have limited payments to particular public employees. , others passed money on to a wide variety of private sector workers considered to be doing important work.

Louisiana spent more than $ 38 million last year providing payments of $ 250 to more than 152,000 “front-line workers” who earn less than $ 50,000 a year, according to state data provided to the ‘AP. The health workers received most of the money, followed by the shopkeepers and the order staff. But payments also went to gas station workers, child care providers, porters, bus drivers and others.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has used $ 50 million in federal aid to subsidize more than 600 businesses to provide a temporary $ 3-an-hour boost to employees earning less than $ 20. ‘hour. Health care providers got the most money, followed by the food industry, according to state data provided to the PA. But millions of dollars have also gone to police companies and private security companies.

In contrast, South Dakota has limited the payment of hazards to state workers and only for the time they have been potentially exposed to COVID-19. A therapy assistant received 40 cents more, a pharmacist received $ 1.80 and a maintenance supervisor received $ 4, according to state data provided to the AP.

In some states, the cost of hazard payment programs far exceeded initial expectations.

Missouri initially planned about $ 24 million in federal aid to provide an additional $ 250 for a two-week stipend for state employees working in close-contact institutions such as prisons, mental health facilities and nursing homes. elderly veterans. The stipend applies to anyone with unplanned absences in any facility with at least one COVID-19 case – eventually covering many more people for a much longer period of time than policymakers had predicted at the start of the pandemic.

Missouri ended up paying more than $ 73 million in severance pay to more than 18,000 employees, generating an additional $ 24 million in marginal costs such as pension and federal tax payments, according to state data provided to the AP. . Payments end June 30, and the State has no immediate plans to resume them.

“Without a doubt, it was worth it,” said Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican. “Some people have done some incredible work in this state to keep the course going and to stay in line with duty.”

Vermont’s dangerous payroll program has also inflated the cost. Last August, the state allocated $ 28 million in federal funds to pay up to $ 2,000 to employees who worked during the early stages of the pandemic. He then added $ 22 million to extend the program to retail and food workers, child care providers, porters, garbage collectors and others. When these funds were exhausted, the state added an additional $ 10 million to cover all eligible candidates.

Employees in the food retail and retail industry in Vermont received nearly a third of the total salary, almost corresponding to the amount going into the health fields, according to data provided to the AP.

Demand was high, in part, because Republican Gov. Phil Scott encouraged large existing companies, such as Walmart, to apply on behalf of their employees, said Mike Pieciak, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation. . He said consumer spending has increased around the time payments were distributed.

“The primary goal was to thank those front-line workers, but it also had a nice benefit of getting the money into the economy,” Pieciak said.

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