The Metropolitan Council last week agreed to pay its employees a $500 bonus to recognize their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a resolution adopted Wednesday, the council noted employees' "exemplary work through unprecedented challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic."

Most of the council's 3,995 full- and part-time employees will receive the "employee recognition payment" in a lump sum, according to spokesman John Schadl.

The nearly $2 million payout will come from the council's general fund, he said.

The regional planning body oversees Metro Transit, Metro Mobility and Transit Link, collects and treats wastewater, operates a regional parks and trails system and provides affordable housing for low-income residents in the metro area.

"This pandemic has required extra efforts, and we as a council believe that we should reward and recognize all council employees," Met Council Chair Charlie Zelle said. "We view this as a gesture of our deep appreciation."

Ryan Timlin, president of Local 1005 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said, "We're thankful for some form of recognition, although some essential employees still don't feel like their work is being recognized."

The union, which represents more than 2,300 bus drivers, light-rail operators, mechanics and others, was unable to win "hazard pay" for members during contract negotiations earlier this year.

The Met Council's resolution comes after state lawmakers agreed last week to spend $250 million on bonuses for workers who were on the front lines of the pandemic.

However, it has not been decided who will get some of the $250 million and how much they will receive.

Lower-paid workers who were on the front lines during the outbreak and people without paid leave, including small-business owners, grocery store workers and custodial staff, should be prioritized, according to some DFL leaders.

A nine-person committee will be formed to decide the parameters of the bonus, with three members appointed by the state Senate, three by the state House and three by Gov. Tim Walz. Lawmakers are hopeful a plan can be worked out by Labor Day for the bonuses.

Other states across the country have recognized workers with bonuses as well, according to a review by the Associated Press. For example, prison guards in Missouri received an extra $250 in their paychecks; teachers in Georgia got $1,000 bonuses, and nurses, janitors, retail workers and others in Vermont received $2,000.

About a third of states have used federal COVID-19 relief aid to reward essential workers during the pandemic, the review found.

However, those who qualified for the bonuses, and how much they received, varied widely. Some were paid thousands of dollars, while others working similar jobs received nothing.

A $350 billion aid package enacted by President Joe Biden in March broadened the ability of state and local governments to provide retroactive pay for workers, the Associated Press said.

Janet Moore • 612-673-7752