On April 29, 2022, Gov. Tim Walz signed Frontline Worker Payments into law, enabling certain Minnesotans who worked on the frontlines during the COVID-19 emergency to apply for bonus pay. While details of the program, including the online application process and timeline, are still being finalized, below we offer a summary of the salient points of the bill.
Who Is Eligible?
Workers eligible to apply for Frontline Worker Pay are those who work in:
- Long-term care and home care;
- Health care;
- Emergency response service;
- Public health, social service, and regulatory service;
- Courts and corrections;
- Child care;
- Schools, including charter schools, state schools and higher education;
- Food service, including production, processing, preparation, sale and delivery;
- Retail, including sales, fulfillment, distribution and delivery;
- Temporary shelters and hotels;
- Building services, including maintenance, janitorial and security;
- Public transit;
- Ground and air transportation services;
- Manufacturing; and
- Vocational rehabilitation.
The bill does not define any of these terms and some—such as “health care” “child care” and “retail” can be understood very broadly. Until the Department of Labor and Industry gives further guidance, employers should assume that these categories of workers will be broadly inclusive.
Employer Notification Requirements
As noted below, employers with workers in frontline sectors are subject to notice requirements. The actual timing of events triggering these required notices is presently unknown.
Additional Eligibility Requirements
Duration and Potential Exposure Risk
Those eligible must have worked at least 120 hours in Minnesota in one or more frontline sectors listed above between March 15, 2020, and June 30, 2021. It must be shown that the applicant was not able to work these hours remotely (telework) due to the nature of the work and that they worked in close proximity to people outside of the applicant’s household.
To be eligible, applicants must meet the following income requirements for at least one year between December 31, 2019, and January 1, 2022:
- Workers with direct COVID-19 patient care responsibilities must have had an annual income less than $350,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly, or less than $175,000 for other filers; and
- For workers in occupations without direct COVID-19 patient care responsibilities, the annual income limit is $185,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly, or $85,000 for other filers; and
- Regardless of occupation, workers must not have received an unemployment insurance benefit payment or served a nonpayable week for more than 20 weeks on a cumulative basis for weeks between March 15, 2020, and June 26, 2021 (Minnesota Statutes, section 268.085, subdivision 1, clause 6).
How Much Will Bonus Payments Be?
The bill allocates a total of $500 million for these frontline worker bonus payments. The total fund will be divided among the total applicants and must be the same for each applicant. So, the amount paid to each applicant will depend on how many workers apply and are approved. However, the bonuses are capped at $1,500 per worker.
What Will the Application Process Look Like?
The application process is not yet open, and no estimates have been given for when it will be. When it is open:
- Employers must notify all current workers (again, this term is not defined but appears to be broader than employees and could include contractors and others) who may be eligible for payments within 15 days of the application opening, explaining to them how to apply. There will be a form available from the Department of Labor and Industry for this purpose.
- Workers have 45 days to apply.
- If an application is denied, that worker can appeal within 15 days of the decision.
The state has set up a Frontline Worker Pay information page. The page offers an option to sign up for alerts specific to these payments.