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State surpasses estimated 'hero pay' applications by more than 400K

The Department of Labor and Industry said, so far, 1,075,000 people applied for the money ahead of the application process that closes Friday at 5 p.m.

ST PAUL, Minn. — In Minnesota, the clock is ticking.

Come Friday at 5 p.m., it will be too late for people to apply for what's called "hero pay". 

Those are payments Governor Walz signed into law in April to thank certain workers who stayed on the frontlines during the pandemic's peacetime emergency.

How much money eligible applicants get will depend on how many people apply for the one-time payment that comes from a pot of $500 million.

A spokesperson for the Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) said on Thursday, 1,075,000 people applied. Lawmakers who drafted this bill initially thought about 667,000 would be eligible.

"I was super pumped," said Tracy Roscoe about the potential bonus. "I think it was well deserved."

Roscoe is a child care center employee, a job the state defines as a frontline worker. She said she's was expecting to receive about $750. 

"We felt like we were guaranteed $750 and if it's less than that, there's a big fight ahead of us then," said Roscoe. "I have been working this entire time through the beginning of COVID up until now."

The DLI says the checks will be divided equally between the eligible applicants. There are 15 job categories, including nursing home and retail workers, along with income thresholds and time served.

The state will notify applicants by email on August 16th whether more action is required or whether their application was denied and they are eligible to submit an appeal. 

To make an appeal, the email will link to a form the applicant has to fill out within 15 days, or the end of the appeals period which is Aug. 31. 

The information required in the appeal form will depend on the reason for the denial. Each denial reason has a corresponding appeal form and if the applicant doesn't complete the forms during the period, the denial will be final.

Successfully submitted appeal forms will be reviewed and a final decision will be communicated to the applicant by email. 

"It's not over yet and we're still out there on the frontline," said Roscoe, who's since joined the Frontline Worker Pay Coalition. It's made-up mostly of unions that are now pushing the Legislature to add another $500 million to the fund. 

"At the time I was scared because I didn't want to get sick," said meatpacking worker Deimili Jimenez. "We had no choice, we had to go and work, so I think we do deserve more money."

Jimenez processes pork at the JBS plant in Worthington that once shut down due to a COVID outbreak early in the pandemic. Now, she's working to help others sign-up for the bonus before it's too late.

"I feel happy knowing that I’ve been helping a lot of people that don’t know how to use the internet fill out the application," said Jimenez. 

According to the DLI, there are five reasons that applications may be denied:

  1. The application has been deemed a duplicate.
  2. The applicant exceeds the unemployment insurance benefit threshold established in the law.
  3. The applicant exceeds the adjusted gross income threshold established in the law.
  4. The applicant's employment eligibility could not be verified.
  5. The applicant's identity could not be verified.

After the appeals period closes, the DLI will determine the final number of applicants and the money is expected to be sent to people this fall.

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