MN LTC Workers: Hero Checks Help, But More Support Needed
Thursday, May 12, 2022
Minnesota officials announced this week that frontline workers can likely start applying for hero checks sometime in June. As those plans take shape, advocates for nursing home staff hope lawmakers come through with additional support.
The bonus checks were recently approved during the legislative session, with eligible workers in line to receive $750 each.
Long term care workers are in the eligibility pool for their commitment during the crisis. Tim Sorenson is a certified nursing assistant at The Estates at Roseville.
He said the recognition means a lot to him, but that doesn't mean the sacrifices are over.
"It's an underpaid job," said Sorenson. "Everybody that does this isn't looking to get rich, but it really should be a fair, livable wage."
Sorenson, who's been infected with COVID-19 twice, said many workers left the industry and there isn't a new wave of applicants to replace them.
Lawmakers are negotiating supplemental spending bills under a historic surplus. A bipartisan Senate plan includes rate increases for providers to offer better pay.
But it's unclear what exactly will be included in a final bill.
Mary Jo George - advocacy director for AARP Minnesota - said finding compromises on paid-leave policy should also be a priority, noting benefits are needed to address the staffing crisis.
She said without action, the system faces collapse.
"There's real risk to more closures of nursing facilities," said George. "There's risk that vulnerable people will have to be hospitalized."
In a report issued last fall, industry officials said there were more than 20,000 vacant direct care positions around Minnesota.
Meanwhile, those eligible for the bonus checks are urged to keep monitoring details on a state website - frontlinepay.mn.gov - for updates.
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