FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX 56) – The work has begun by house democrats to try and decide how to split up $400 million dollars Gov. Andy Beshear hopes to give to essential workers from federal COVID-19 aid.

“At one point my 10-year-old daughter asked her mother ‘Is daddy going to die?’ She believed she was witnessing her father laying in his deathbed and it would take a year and a half of therapy and medications to return to the happy vivacious child that I remembered pre-pandemic,” Sgt. Justin Bradbury said of his own Covid diagnosis in the early days of the pandemic before returning to work weeks later at the Covington Police Department.

Stories like his were shared by several representatives of Kentucky nurses, firefighters, law enforcement, emergency medical services, and teamsters on day one of the public hearings for the Essential Workers Work Group held by Kentucky House Democrats.

“How well do you think a paper gown and M-95 mask hold up during a physical altercation with someone who is Covid positive and you’re trying to restrain them in handcuffs,” Lt. Darrell McNeese of Louisville Metro Dept. of Corrections shared when describing daily duties of handling Covid-positive incarcerated people.

Lawmakers are hearing testimony to try and decide how to divvy up $400 million dollars in funds from the American Rescue Plan that Beshear hopes to designate to essential workers when presenting the budget to next year’s legislative session.

“It has been a battle where sometimes their voices haven’t been heard, especially some of our frontline workers who have been so busy battling day in and day out. And we think that they have a voice that we need to listen to when it comes to the general assembly as we look to a distribution plan for the American Rescue Plan – the $400 million dollars that the governor has identified as available to our frontline and essential support workers,” work group chair Rep. Buddy Wheatley said.

Wheatley said the majority party was given the opportunity to join the work group chaired by all Democrats, but he said he’s also not heard much from Republicans on the issue.

Many of those testifying today are hopeful lawmakers understand their plea.

“These are people that are working about three extra months- sometimes more- within a year just in overtime, And I know the comment’s going to be there ‘Oh well they got paid.’ They did but it’s also nice to go home, it’s also nice to see your family, it’s nice to be able to spend time and maybe take a little bit of time off,” Brian O’Neil of Kentucky Professional Firefighters said.

Today’s hearing was the first of two scheduled by House democrats, the second is set for Dec. 16. You can sign up to testify by emailing Shellee.Hayden@lrc.ky.gov.