By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Heroes of the pandemic could be receiving bonus pay as state lawmakers set aside millions to split among front-line workers.

For more than 18 months front-line workers risked their own health and safety to provide critical services to Minnesotans.

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Nurses, corrections workers, food service workers and others are asking for a fair share of a $250 million dollar direct support to essential workers.

“We are here to make sure workers are heard when we say it’s time to make it right,” said ICU nurse and head of Minnesota Nurses Association Mary Turner.

Turner says premium pay is what’s due when workers go above and beyond to sacrifice to keep us safe.

“Throughout this pandemic workers have fought for testing for our pay and our benefits too. Every time we were exposed we had to quarantine at home and many of us did not have benefits to pay for that so we went short,” Turner said.

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During its first hybrid hearing, the Front-Line Worker Pay Working Group heard from essential workers about how they operated without concern for themselves during the COVID-19 shutdown when others worked from home.

This group of lawmakers has their work cut out for them. They must first decide how many Minnesotans are considered essential workers and how the funds will be distributed.

There will be lots of diving into definitions and data before the working group’s September 6. deadline to send legislative recommendations to the governor.

“It’s critical that the working group responsible for distributing the funds ensure that they are distributed in a timely fashion and are easy for the workers to access,”  Turner said.

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The working group will consider factors like worker’s increased financial burden and increased risk of virus exposure. And to be passed successfully, seven of the nine members must approve the recommendation.

Reg Chapman