Minnesota to start winnowing stack of pandemic ‘hero payout’ demands

The window for frontline pandemic workers to apply for money from Minnesota’s Heroes Pay Program closed on Friday, and officials will soon begin winnowing the vast slate of applicants.

The state received nearly 1.1 million applications Wednesday. Minnesotans had until Friday afternoon to submit their claims, and a spokesperson for the Department of Labor and Industry expected claim submissions to increase in the past few days.

Lawmakers estimated that each person would receive about $750 if 667,000 people were eligible for the payments. This amount could be significantly lower if a large portion of the people who sent in applications are eligible.

It likely won’t be clear until this fall how much each eligible Minnesotan will receive from the $500 million approved by lawmakers this spring. The sum will be divided equally between these workers.

A coalition of labour, church and community groups on Thursday reiterated its demand that lawmakers approve an additional $500 million, which Democrats had sought in the last legislative session.

“The incredible number of applicants shows how important our collective efforts are and why we need to do more to support frontline workers on the job,” Minnesota Nurses Association President Mary Turner said in a statement.

With the application period now closed, state officials are now beginning to screen applications and check if people are eligible. Applicants will receive an email indicating that no further action is required on their part or that the state has denied their application.

There are five potential reasons for a denial:

  • The person submitted duplicate requests.
  • The identity of the person could not be verified.
  • The person’s employment eligibility could not be verified. Workers must have held one or more front-line positions for at least 120 hours between March 15, 2020 and June 30, 2021.
  • The person received unemployment insurance benefits for more than 20 weeks for a certain period of time set by state law.
  • The person’s adjusted annual gross income was above established thresholds. Individuals who had direct COVID-19 patient care responsibilities must have earned less than $350,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly or $175,000 for all other filers. Those who did not provide direct patient care cannot earn more than $185,000 for married joint filers or $85,000 for others.

If an application is denied, an applicant can submit an appeal for a period of 15 days, which is expected to run from August 16-31. To appeal a denial, workers must submit the online forms corresponding to the reasons why their request was denied.

The Department of Labor and Industry, which has the final say on appeals, will notify people by email if their appeal is successful.

Payments are expected to be made this fall and will be sent by direct deposit or prepaid debit card, depending on the applicant’s preference.

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