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This story comes to you from MPR News, a partner with Sahan Journal. We will be sharing stories between SahanJournal.com and MPRNews.org.
Despite early glitches with the state website, nearly 200,000 Minnesotans have already put in applications to receive a COVID-related bonus payment of up to $1,500.
The money is meant to support those who worked in especially high-risk environments during the pandemic – teachers, those in health care fields, food service and retail workers, to name just a few of the jobs qualified for the bonuses.
Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Legislature approved the terms of the front-line worker pay back in April after nearly a year of debating which workers would get extra payment and how much. The state predicts up to 700,000 Minnesotans could qualify for the checks.
Like any governmental process, applying for the front-line worker pay is complicated and could be confusing. Here’s what to know:
How do I know if I’m eligible for the pandemic bonus?
The state outlined work, income and industry requirements for those who can get bonus payments:
You must have been employed for at least 120 hours in Minnesota in one or more front-line sectors between March 15, 2020 and June 30, 2021. You must have also had to work within six feet of people you weren’t living with.
Temporary workers are eligible for payment if they meet all other requirements.
Minnesota residency is not part of the criteria for eligibility. (Wisconsin commuters, you’re free to apply!)
You aren’t eligible if you had the option to work remotely but chose to work in-person.
These rules are different for people who cared for patients or residents with COVID. The income cap for these workers is higher than for those who didn’t care for people with COVID.
You’ll need to know your adjusted gross income. That’s listed on your Minnesota tax filings on line 1 of the M1 form.
For workers who, as part of their job duties, cared directly for someone who was positive for COVID-19:
Eligibility requires an adjusted gross income for at least one of the 2020 or 2021 tax years of less than $350,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly or less than $175,000 for individuals.
For workers who didn’t care for people with COVID:
The adjusted gross income limit is $185,000 for married people filing jointly or $85,000 for individuals.
Applicants aren’t eligible for the bonus payments if they received unemployment benefits for more than 20 weeks between March 15, 2020, and June 26, 2021.
If you’re unsure, you can view your unemployment insurance benefit history by following these instructions from Minnesota Unemployment Insurance.
Eligible job sectors
These are the workforces the state has identified as eligible for bonus payments:
- Schools (includes state schools, charter schools and higher education)
- Health care
- Emergency responders
- Long-term care
- Home care
- Child care
- Public health
- Social services
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Temporary shelters
- Regulatory services
- Courts and corrections
- Food service (production, processing, preparation, sale, delivery)
- Building services (maintenance, janitorial, security)
- Ground and air transportation services
- Public transportation
- Retail (sales, fulfillment, distribution, delivery)
The state has a bit more detail about each sector here.
Anyone outside of the sectors above isn’t eligible for the money, but the state also specifically noted a few examples of workers who can’t get bonuses. Those are independent contractors and sole proprietors, as well as those in construction, utilities, arts and entertainment, recreation, finance and insurance, information services, technical services, scientific services and professional services.
Volunteers in any field are also not eligible.
What if I’m not sure if I’m eligible?
If, after reading all the requirements, you’re still unsure if you’re actually eligible, the state says to go ahead and submit an application.
How do I apply for a bonus?
The online application is at frontlinepay.mn.gov. Scroll down the page until you see a white box that says “Minnesota Frontline Worker Pay Program” and click there.
What will I need when I apply?
These are the fields you’ll need to fill out: Name, address, phone number, email address, date of birth, Social Security number or Individual Tax Identification Number, employer name, employer address, employer phone number, employer email address, dates of relevant employment and job title.
You’ll also need to provide debit card information or a bank routing number and account number for direct deposit if you’re approved for a bonus.
Do I need a computer to apply?
The website appears to work on mobile, so it should be accessible with a smartphone or tablet connected to the internet.
Unfortunately there is no option to fill out an application on paper or over the phone. Access a computer for free at your local library.
Do I need anything from my employer?
No, you don’t need documentation or verification from your employer to apply, but within the application you’ll need to click a box that gives the state permission to reach out to your employer if they need additional verification while reviewing your materials.
Are there options for completing the application in another language?
The application process is available in Spanish, Hmong and Somali at frontlinepay.mn.gov. Contact the application support center at 866-333-7633 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more assistance.
When’s the deadline to apply?
The 45-day application window closes July 22 at 5 p.m., though the state website says that date is subject to change. Sign up here to receive email updates.
How can I confirm the state received my application?
You’ll get an email from email@example.com. Save that address to your contacts so any messages don’t land in your junk folder.
What if I’m denied?
You’ll also be alerted via email whether you’re approved or denied, and then there’s 15 days to appeal a denial. The decision on an appeal is then the final decision.
If I’m approved, when will I get the money?
All applications will be processed at the same time – when the window to apply and the appeals period is over. In other words, those who apply sooner won’t receive payments first.
The money is expected to go out early this fall.
How much money will I receive?
The $500 million set aside by the Legislature will be divided evenly among every eligible recipient – with a cap of $1,500 each. If an anticipated 667,000 people qualify, checks will be around $750.
Will I have to pay taxes on this income?
The bonuses won’t be taxable in Minnesota – nor is it included in income counted for Minnesota’s property tax refund or the K-12 education credit.
The state says that for federal taxes, the payment is included in federal adjusted gross income, meaning it is subject to be taxed.
If I get a bonus, will it affect my public financial assistance?
The Department of Labor and Industry says the bonuses won’t be considered income for the purposes of qualifying for state-based child care assistance, food support, housing support, the Minnesota family investment program, the Minnesota diversionary work program and economic support programs.
For more information, call 866-333-7633 or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
MPR News reporter Brian Bakst contributed to this report.