Assisted living workers are lining up to receive a one-time bonus payment for pandemic work

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Minnesota has established a $500 million fund to provide one-time bonuses to frontline workers, including assisted living workers, for staying on the job during the pandemic.

Governor Tim Walz signed the law into law on Friday. Eligible workers—including assisted living, home care, and other frontline workers—employed between March 15, 2020 and June 30, 2021 may each claim a bonus payment of up to $1,500.

Approximately 667,000 field workers are eligible for a payment. The law also earmarks $2.7 billion to top up the state’s unemployment benefit trust fund and prevent a small business tax hike.

“Bonuses for frontline workers are a long overdue ‘thank you’ to nurses for their sacrifices at the heart of the pandemic, but we need to focus on the problem we face today: there are 23,000 nursing job openings in all State and one-time awards will do almost nothing to attract and retain the workforce we need to care for Minnesota’s 1 million seniors,” said Patti Cullen, President and CEO of Care Providers of Minnesota McKnight’s senior life. “Until we are able to pay career wages, thousands of seniors are at risk of losing access to the care they need.”

Care Providers of Minnesota is the state affiliate of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living.

LeadingAge Minnesota President and CEO Kari Thurlow shared a similar sentiment McKnight’s senior lifeand said lawmakers must now turn their attention to the industry’s “significant” workforce crisis.

“The state plays an important role in setting rates for retirement benefits, but it’s not enough to cover the cost of care,” Thurlow said. “Without investment in Senior Waiver, a program designed to help low-income seniors receive care in assisted living and other home and community-based facilities, thousands of seniors risk losing access to the care they need in the communities, they call home.”

For bonus payments, the state is working on an online application system through the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry that will give eligible workers 45 days to apply.

Workers in the following sectors are eligible to apply for the awards – long-term care and home care, healthcare, emergency responders, public health, courts and correctional facilities, childcare, schools, hospitality, retail, shelters and hotels, construction services, public transportation, ground and air transportation services , Manufacturing and Vocational Rehabilitation.

The Minnesota Senate recently passed a sweeping health and welfare reform bill to address the state’s long-term care crisis. The legislation provides a $1 billion surplus priority to increase rates for the long-term care, personal care and disability waiver service industries. That amount comes on top of the $322 million bailout introduced earlier this year to address the staffing crisis at such facilities.

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