ST PAUL, Minn. — We now know nearly 1.2 million Minnesotans applied for "hero pay" — the money that pandemic frontline workers can get from the state.
Back in April, Governor Tim Walz signed the Frontline Worker Payments into law.
The legislature agreed on $500 million to be split equally between people working in 15 specific job sectors during the first part of the pandemic, including other criteria.
Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) Deputy Commissioner Nicole Blissenbach is in charge of administering the program, which she says is unlike anything the DLI has had before.
"It really does blow me away how many people were out there on the frontlines providing support, putting themselves and families at risk, increased risk, of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace in order to provide for other Minnesotans," said Blissenbach.
The window to apply was 45 days long and closed on Friday. Just over 400,000 more people applied for the money than lawmakers first estimated.
"We have a number of verification checks in place and that's kind of what we're starting on now that the application period is closed," said Blissenbach.
Besides DLI, the Departments of Revenue and Employment and Economic Development (DEED) are reviewing applications.
"DEED is running verifications on unemployment insurance benefits during that identified time period; Revenue is running verification related to adjusted gross income; and we at DLI are running employment verifications," said Blissenbach.
Applicants will find out via email on Aug. 16 whether their application was approved and if it was denied. The appeals period is open for another 15 days. Payouts will then be based on the final number of confirmed applications. At this point, it could mean about $400 per person, which is several hundred less than original estimates.
"What it does say, is that it's really hard to estimate the eligibility criteria that were in the law," said Blissenbach, who was asked whether she thinks $400 is worth the risk some workers took. "I think the program was set up as recognition after the fact, and the way the legislation is written, is we have $500 million that will be divided equally amongst all the applicants. And that's what our charge is at the Department of Labor and Industry and working with the other departments, and that's what we'll do in the end — unless we hear differently from the legislature."
The DLI says it plans to disperse payments sometime this fall. For a detailed question-and-answer sheet on the program's denial and appeals process, click here.
Watch more on the coronavirus:
Watch the latest reports and updates on the coronavirus pandemic in Minnesota with our YouTube playlist: