FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX 56/WKYT) – Some Kentucky lawmakers want to move forward on proposals to pay bonuses to essential workers, many of them who never stopped working, and worked even more in the early days of the pandemic.

The governor said $400 million of American Rescue Plan money should be spent on this. While Democrats want to start those discussions now, Republican leaders said the normal legislative process needs to be followed.

Nursing association leaders told Kentucky lawmakers of a shortage of nurses that was already bad before the pandemic started. And well into COVID, the lack of respect became a major issue.

“When the pandemic started, we were heroes,” said Delanor Manson with the Kentucky Nurses Association. “Now, we are people who are demoralized.”

The long hours and tough working environments resulted in many leaving the state, and nursing all together.

“Sixteen percent of the people who took the survey, said they were very likely to leave the profession. They are not even going to change jobs,” Manson said.

Nursing association heads joined firefighters and police officers in appealing for a piece of the bonus pie, if lawmakers can agree to using millions of rescue plan money for that purpose.

“I read about some essential workers receiving hero pay but the majority of Kentucky firefighters are left out of that conversation. While they definitely did not get into this for excessive pay or benefits, or even praise, it is disheartening for them to see others receive financial recognition,” said Joe Baer with Kentucky Professional Firefighters.

“I saw one officer out with COVID-19 more severe than mine. He was off for seven weeks. A full month longer than me. He returned but doctors said he still had a small amount of pneumonia when he returned,” said Sgt. Justin Bradbury with the Covington Police Department.

Republican leaders said the normal budget process needs to be followed. House Speaker David Osborne released a statement this afternoon saying they will consider what this workgroup and the governor proposes, but they invited them to participate in the existing process.