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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL)

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House Democrats vote to provide bigger bonus checks to all frontline workers

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Saint Paul, Minn. — Today, Democrats in the Minnesota House advanced a proposal to use a historic budget surplus to provide at least 667,000 frontline workers bonus checks of up to $1,500, a top legislative priority. The bill will put money into the pockets of first responders, nurses, child care providers, janitors and so many others who have sacrificed their health during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This bill has been two hard years in the making,” said Rep. Cedrick Frazier, author of the bill. “It has passed through six committees in less than a month, had many dedicated frontline workers drop everything to testify in support, and we’ve answered hundreds of questions from our colleagues. Now it’s passed off of the House floor. Our workers in Minnesota need to see action from Senate leaders on this bill now. We need to show that our Minnesota legislature puts people over profits.”

During the June 2021 special session, the DFL House and Republican Senate passed a compromise budget that included $250 million for frontline worker bonus pay and created a working group to make recommendations to the Legislature on how to distribute those resources. When Minnesota announced a historic $7.7 billion budget surplus in December 2021, Democrats quickly beefed up their proposal to deliver $1 billion in order to provide bigger bonus checks to all frontline workers. 

“Democrats have been working for months to get bonus checks into the hands of Minnesota’s heroic frontline workers, and the only reason it hasn’t happened yet is because Senate Republicans are playing politics with workers’ livelihoods,” said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “Republicans have broken their promise to our pandemic heroes and instead are prioritizing tax cuts for big corporations and wealthy individuals that are doing extremely well. It’s time for Republicans to join Democrats in putting workers and their families first.” 

The DFL proposal includes the following occupations in the definition of a frontline worker: 1) long-term care and home care; 2) health care; 3) emergency responders; 4) public health, social service, and regulatory service; 5) courts and corrections; 6) child care; 7) public schools, including charter schools, state schools, and higher education; 8) food service, including production, processing, preparation, sale, and delivery; 9) retail, including sales, fulfillment, distribution, and delivery; 10) temporary shelters and hotels; 11) building services, including maintenance, janitorial, and security; 12) public transit; 13) ground and air transportation services; 14) manufacturing; and 15) vocational rehabilitation.

“From the very beginning of this pandemic, Minnesota’s frontline workers have put their health and safety on the line to keep the economy going, treat COVID patients, provide child care, teach our children, respond to emergencies, ensure we all have food, and so much more,” said Speaker Melissa Hortman. “These workers have more than earned these bonuses, and it’s long past time we get this done.” 

In order to receive a bonus check, workers must meet the following individual eligibility requirements:

  • was employed in one of the frontline sectors in MN for at least 120 hours from 3/15/20 to 6/30/21
  • was not able to work remotely due to the nature of their work, and worked in close proximity to other individuals (not in the same household);
  • meet income restrictions. For workers providing direct care to COVID patients, max income is $350,000 (joint filers) and $175,000 (single). For all other workers, the limits are $185,000 (joint) and $85,000 (single); and
  • did not collect more than 20 weeks of unemployment benefits from 3/15/20 to 6/30/21.

Senate Republicans have yet to introduce a single piece of legislation that delivers bonus checks to frontline workers after the Legislature promised to do so as part of budget negotiations during the June 2021 special session. Republican members of the Frontline Worker Pay Working group recommended a proposal that would leave more than half a million frontline workers with $0 in bonus checks.