The Potluck

Cost of $1,500 bonuses to assisted living, nursing home workers totals $96 million, estimate says

By: - August 3, 2021 2:54 pm

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

It would cost $96 million to provide $1,500 bonuses to 79,000 full-time employees in assisted living and nursing home facilities who toiled during the height of the pandemic, according to one estimate Minnesota lawmakers heard on Tuesday. 

A nine-person working group heard the estimate as they decide how divvy up the $250 million the Legislature set aside for essential workers. The Legislature gave very little guidance except that long-term health care workers must be included in the mix. 

Those workers and nursing home operators on Tuesday outlined how difficult their jobs became at the height of the pandemic.

Kari Thurlow, senior vice president of advocacy for LeadingAge MN, provided testimony and fiscal estimates to the legislative working group that has until next month to determine how much and who to give bonuses to. 

Thurlow said the $1,500 bonuses would go to 38,000 nursing home employees and 41,500 assisted living employees and would be prorated for part-time employees. She said there are roughly 10,000 open positions in long term care after many workers left the field. 

“It is truly frightening the workforce crisis that we have today,” she said. “Simply put, staff are mentally and physically exhausted, and yet at the same time they are gearing up for the fourth wave driven largely by the spread of the Delta variant.” 

State Sen. Karin Housley, R-Stillwater, who has worked on senior issues during her tenure, seemed supportive of prioritizing long-term care workers. “It’s a goal,” she said. 

The group — made up of three representatives, three senators and three commissioners — has heard testimony from essential workers including nurses, child care workers, food service workers, janitors and personal care aides, illustrating the challenge of distributing even a sum as large as a quarter-billion dollars among so many people.

They’ll meet again Thursday, hoping to make recommendations to the Legislature in advance of a September special legislative session.

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.