More than 70 Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians government and casino employees were given surprise “hero pay” for their work throughout the COVID pandemic, the tribe announced Monday.

The Augustine Tribal Council voted last week to give its “essential workers” $10 additional pay retroactively for each hour worked during the initial 12 months of the pandemic.

Checks ranging from several hundred dollars to $19,000 for the “hero pay” come from the Coronavirus State & Tribal Fiscal Recovery Fund, which was part of the American Rescue Plan Act signed into law by President Joe Biden in March.

“Our team members were on the front lines for us, working hard to keep us all safe, to keep the business running and to protect our guests,” Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians Chairwoman Amanda Vance said.

The tribe initially closed its Augustine Casino in March 2020 due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and reopened with COVID-19 protocols in June 2020.

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