State approves over 1 million for Frontline Worker pay; payments to start Wednesday

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More than 1 million Minnesotans have been approved by the state to receive Frontline Worker payments.

Gov. Tim Walz’s office announced Monday that 1,025,655 people were approved. Since the $500 million approved for payments is split equally, that means every approved person will receive $487.45.

The state says it will start sending out payments on Wednesday and will continue processing and sending out payments through the fall. The governor’s office says approve applicants who chose to get the payment via direct deposit will get it within seven to 10 business days. Those who chose to receive it via a debit card will get it within three to four weeks.

“I’m grateful for the work Minnesotans did to help people across our state stay healthy and safe through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Walz said in a statement. “Frontline workers are an important part of the fabric of our state and helped us continue functioning during the pandemic. Now, I’m proud to say these workers will receive $487.45 in recognition from the State of Minnesota.”

“It’s been an honor to administer the Frontline Worker Pay Program and provide the well-deserved and long-awaited recognition to so many of Minnesota’s frontline workers for the extraordinary sacrifices they made during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Nicole Blissenbach, the temporary commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, said. “These workers deserve our thanks and I’m grateful to be part of the program that gives them a token of our appreciation.”

Blissenbach said every person who applied for Frontline Worker pay will get an email by the end of the day Wednesday to notify them of their final status.

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The payments aren’t subject to state taxes but are still subject to federal taxes.

When the legislature approved the $500 million for frontline workers earlier this year, state officials estimated about 667,000 Minnesotans were expected to be eligible for the payments, which were initially estimated to be around $750. However, more than 1 million people applied for the funds.

In mid-August, the state reported the total number of applicants who were subject to being denied funds was 214,209. Those who received denials were able to appeal their applications but had to do so by 5 p.m. on Aug. 31.

At a press conference celebrating the announcement Monday afternoon, workers and lawmakers celebrated the payments, calling it “a good day.”

“I’m just happy that we’re finally getting it … getting this payment. It was hard times but, you know, we made it through and we finally here,” Keith Farr, a meat cutter at Lunds & Byerlys, said.

“This is a very good day for frontline workers, for essential workers, and it’s proof that when we lead with purpose and we persist despite entrenched politics, that we can make progress for the people of Minnesota,” Sen. Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul) said.

While the payments aren’t as much as originally projected due to the high number of applicants, those receiving the payments are happy to at least be getting something.

“It’s better than nothing. I would’ve like it to be a little bit more but it is what it is. Everyone deserves it … that worked at the time,” Farr said.

Both workers and lawmakers thanked the Minnesotans who worked on the front lines during the pandemic and those who pushed for funding for frontline workers.

“It’s honestly really surreal to know that what we did, just basic workers who came together, we helped a million Minnesotans get through something and get something at the end of the day, so it feels really good to have helped that many people out of something that was really hard for us,” Rachel Hanneman, a Minnesota nurse, said.

“I gotta tell you, the way this thing works — capitalism, our society, our economy — it doesn’t work, it doesn’t go well if we have dedicated workers like we have standing with us today, like we’ve had with us throughout the pandemic that showed up day in and day out, that sacrificed themselves and their families to make sure the job got done,” Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL-New Hope) added.

The law requires the labor department to issue a report to the legislature within 90 days of payments processing. Frazier says he anticipates lawmakers will look at that next year and see if more frontline worker funding can be approved, which he said he would support.

“I applaud our frontline workers who took great risks during the pandemic. They deserve our appreciation and respect for everything they have done and continue to do to keep us safe,” Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller said in a statement. “While 1 million Minnesotans are getting a small thank you for their work during the pandemic right now, Senate Republicans will continue to fight for permanent tax cuts so every working Minnesotan will see a ‘bonus payment’ in every paycheck – week after week, month after month, year after year.”