Minnesota front-line pay panel focuses on health care workers

(KSTP) – The Frontline Worker Pay Working Group continues to zero in on which essential workers will be in line for bonus payments earned during the pandemic. On Tuesday, the focus was on health care workers who have often worked directly with COVID-19 patients for more than a year.

"I think our workers right now could use an emotional boost and just the recognition from the state," said Mary Krinkie, of the Minnesota Hospital Association. "Thank you for your work and your service. Like I said a month ago, I thought we were at the light at the end of the tunnel and now we’re in surge number four. They’re tired."

Krinkie was among a dozen people from the health care industry who testified at the fourth meeting of the working group, which is trying to determine how to distribute $250 million in pandemic bonus money allocated by the legislature.

They’ve previously heard from child care, nursing home, food service and education workers.

Several nurses testified that they’ve endured major stress since the pandemic started nearly 18 months ago.

"We put our lives and the lives of our families at risk. In March 2020, I began to live my life believing I was inevitably going to die from COVID," said Deb Pavlica, of Boynton Health Services.

"Due to everything shutting down and people staying home, the world was really isolating for all of us," nurse Daniel Clute told the group. "But especially so for the health care workers and those working with known COVID patients because we kind of felt like pariahs anywhere we went that we could possibly be infected and not know it."

Depending on the size of the final group of workers included in the bonus pay, the $250 million could result in payments as low as $106 to a high of $361. Other states have authorized payments ranging from $250 to $2,000.

Gov. Tim Walz told reporters on Tuesday he’s confident the working group will come up with a recommendation for the legislature to vote on next month. He also knows they likely won’t please everyone.

"I think they’ll come together," he said. "There will be groups of folks that will not be in that first group that I think will be deserving, will probably be highly disappointed and I think that will motivate us to come back."

It’s unclear whether more money will be made available.