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Nearly 1.2 million apply for hero pay in Minnesota, workers to learn if they get checks next month

The applicant pool was nearly double what officials expected, which means checks for eligible workers could be lower than the $750 they initially planned.

Gov. Tim Walz - worker pay
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday, July 6, 2022, encouraged front-line workers to apply for hero pay from the state and said more than 901,000 had applied so far for the benefits during a news conference at the Capitol.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Nearly 1.2 million front-line workers applied for bonus checks from the state ahead of a deadline on Friday, July 22, Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry leaders said.

In all, 1,199,512 workers who'd remained on the job in person during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic submitted applications, they said. That's nearly double the total that state lawmakers believed were eligible to receive the payments.

And now, state officials will parse through the applications to determine how many applicants meet the criteria and will get a check from the state. The total pool available is $500 million.

That amount will be divided up evenly between all the eligible applicants. Lawmakers initially estimated that each worker would receive about $750 but with the broader applicant pool, workers could expect to see checks closer to $400.

Several labor union leaders last week urged policymakers to approve $500 million more to go out to front-line workers given the strong response to the checks.


“It’s very important to give the full amount of $1 billion to all front-line workers," said Deimili Jimenez, a Worthington meatpacking worker and United Food and Commercial Unions International Unon Local 663 member.

"We were scared to go to work, then come home and wonder if we were spreading the virus," Jimenez continued. "We didn’t have the opportunity to work from home. We went to the line to process pork every day that fed Minnesota and the world.”

Democrats at the Capitol supported efforts to send out $1 billion to front-line workers, but they ultimately compromised with Republicans on a $500 million plan. GOP lawmakers have said they're not interested in returning for a special legislative session to take up additional front-line worker checks or other spending bills.

Around mid-August, bonus pay applicants will be notified if they meet state eligibility requirements. Those who don't will have a 15-day window to appeal.

Eligible employees had to work 120 hours between March 15, 2020, and June 30, 2021, and not have drawn down unemployment benefits for more than 20 weeks.

There was also an income cap of $85,000 for individual tax filers who did not work directly with COVID-19 patients. Those who worked with COVID-19 patients could receive the checks if they make $175,000 or less a year.

Several incumbent state legislators, particularly in the Senate, edged out competitors with more extreme views on COVID-19, election security and more.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter  @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email  dferguson@forumcomm.com.

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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