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Stop&Shop home delivery truck with essential worker in Queens, New York. Photo: Lindsey Nicholson/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

About one-third of U.S. states used federal COVID-19 aid to give bonuses to essential workers during the pandemic, but standards varied widely state-to-state as to who qualified for the rewards and how much they got, the Associated Press reports.

Why it matters: The pandemic highlighted the importance of the many underpaid and under-appreciated workers who helped keep America running, from delivering packages to stocking grocery store shelves.

The big picture: How states chose to use their federal COVID-19 aid was highly individualized.

  • In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf (D), used $50 million of the federal funding to help 600 businesses give $3 hourly raises to workers earning less than $20 per hour, per AP.
  • Missouri allocated funds to give an extra $500 per month to workers in high-contact workplaces, such as "prisons, mental health facilities and veterans nursing homes."
  • In South Dakota, hazard pay was limited to state workers and only doled out for the time they were potentially exposed to COVID-19. "One therapy assistant got an extra 40 cents, a pharmacist received $1.80 and a maintenance supervisor got $4," reports AP.

What's more: President Biden's American Rescue Plan broadens the ability of states to use federal funding to provide backpay to essential workers, but few states are taking advantage, according to AP.

  • Teachers and first responders in Florida will be receiving $1,000 bonuses, and Minnesota also hopes to distribute bonuses to essential workers by the end of the year.
  • However, Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) recently vetoed a budget proposal to give teachers $2,200 bonuses and an effort in Oregon to distribute up to $2,000 in bonuses for essential workers also failed, per AP.

Go deeper

John Frank, author of Denver
Oct 18, 2021 - Axios Denver

Denver poised to give belated incentives for vaccinations

Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock speaks at the Colorado Convention Center on Sept. 22. Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Mayor Michael Hancock may have his way after all.

What's happening: City employees who are vaccinated against COVID-19 or received an exemption could soon receive bonuses for complying with the Hancock administration's vaccine mandate.

Updated Oct 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Pfizer booster has 95.6% efficacy, large study shows — FDA authorizes mix-and-match for booster shots — J&J expects $2.5 billion of vaccine sales this year.
  2. Health: Cases and deaths keep falling — White House unveils plan to "quickly" vaccinate kids ages 5-11 — The global coronavirus vaccine gap — Gates Foundation to send $120 million of antiviral pills to lower-income countries.
  3. Politics: Reports: Brazil leader to be accused of crimes against humanity over COVID — Puerto Rico leads U.S. vaccination rates — Hawaii invites fully vaccinated travelers to return from Nov. 1.
  4. Education: Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states — LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations — Parent sues Wisconsin school district after child tests positive.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Linh Ta, author of Des Moines
Oct 18, 2021 - Axios Des Moines

Iowa schools grapple with staff shortages

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's the middle of the year, but staff shortages are still hampering Iowa schools' from performing their daily operations at 100%.

  • And this year's politicized debates about classrooms aren't helping with morale and retaining workers, said Mike Beranek, president of the Iowa State Education Association.

Why it matters: Staff shortages, especially in classrooms, hurt student learning. Teachers and teacher aides don't have time for individualized lesson plans and they're managing larger class sizes.