Oct 4, 2022 - News

Minnesota to send $487 payments to 1 million pandemic frontline workers

Illustration of an origami heart made from paper money.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

More than 1 million Minnesotans who worked frontline jobs at the onset of the pandemic are finally getting their "hero" pay.

The big picture: The $487 bonuses, set to go out starting Wednesday, are smaller than the $750 lawmakers envisioned when they approved the program.

  • The reason: The state received 1,025,655 applications that met eligibility guidelines. That's significantly more than lawmakers' estimates that about 667,000 workers would qualify.

Flashback: Lawmakers at the divided Legislature first agreed to spend $250 million on the bonuses in 2021.

  • But the process hit a snag over disagreements about who should be eligible and whether the state should set aside more money for bigger payments.
  • In April, lawmakers agreed to increase the pot to $500 million as part of a deal to replenish the state's depleted Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.

What they're saying: Grocery worker Keith Farr, who worked at a Lunds & Byerlys butcher counter throughout the pandemic, said the payment recognizes the "sacrifice that we made and continue to make."

  • He recalled trying to keep his three daughters from getting sick after he fell ill with COVID, and the family's financial struggles that struck when his wife quit her job to help the kids with remote learning.
  • "It's better than nothing," Farr, who plans to put his check toward rent, told reporters of the final amount. "I would have liked it to be more but I mean, it is what it is."

Between the lines: A breakdown of approved applicants' professions was not immediately available. Temporary state labor commissioner Nicole Blissenbach told reporters that information will be in a report submitted to the Legislature in about three months.

What to expect: All applicants will receive an email by Wednesday confirming whether their request was approved or rejected, Blissenbach said.

  • Applicants who requested AHC direct deposit payments should receive the funds within seven to 10 business days.
  • Those who opted for a debit card will get the payment by mail in three to four weeks.

Of note: The payments are not taxable on the state level, but they are subject to federal taxes.

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