Bonuses for essential workers varied widely by state


About one-third of U.S. states used federal COVID-19 aid to give bonuses to essential workers during the pandemic, but standards varied widely state-to-state as to who qualified for the rewards and how much they got, the Associated Press reports.

 The pandemic highlighted the importance of the many underpaid and under-appreciated workers who helped keep America running, from delivering packages to stocking grocery store shelves.

 How states chose to use their federal COVID-19 aid was highly individualized.

  • In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf (D), used $50 million of the federal funding to help 600 businesses give $3 hourly raises to workers earning less than $20 per hour, per AP.
  • Missouri allocated funds to give an extra $500 per month to workers in high-contact workplaces, such as "prisons, mental health facilities, and veterans nursing homes."
  • In South Dakota, hazard pay was limited to state workers and only doled out for the time they were potentially exposed to COVID-19. "One therapy assistant got an extra 40 cents, a pharmacist received $1.80 and a maintenance supervisor got $4," reports AP.

President Biden's American Rescue Plan broadens the ability of states to use federal funding to provide backpay to essential workers, but few states are taking advantage, according to AP.

  • Teachers and first responders in Florida will be receiving $1,000 bonuses, and Minnesota also hopes to distribute bonuses to essential workers by the end of the year.
  • However, Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) recently vetoed a budget proposal to give teachers $2,200 bonuses and an effort in Oregon to distribute up to $2,000 in bonuses for essential workers also failed, per AP.

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