Bonus checks coming to workers on the frontline during the pandemic
Hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans who worked tirelessly on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic will soon receive a $500 million “thank you” for their efforts from the state of Minnesota. If the estimated 670,000 frontline workers all apply, each worker will receive $750.
The biggest accomplishment of this legislative session so far was teamed with a $2.7 billion replenishment of the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund which was depleted by workers laid off during the pandemic. Following months of negotiations, the Democratic-led House passed a $1 billion frontline workers bonus pay bill and the Republican-led Senate passed a $250 million measure.
“We have been fighting for bonus pay for frontline workers for over a year. MAPE members worked hard to keep Minnesotans safe and state government running during the pandemic, and we’re proud to have served on MAPE’s Essential Workers Pay Task Force to advocate for acknowledgement of what our members do every day to serve Minnesotans,” said MAPE statewide Vice President Angie Halseth, a caseworker at Lino Lakes Correctional Facility. “We are thankful for the solidarity from all MAPE members and the MAPE members who fought for this pay.”
Several days a week, after she completes her shift as a security caseworker at the Moose Lake Correctional Facility, Chrissy Gamst changes into a corrections officer uniform and works another shift because the facility is so short-staffed.
“The corrections living unit I worked on became ground zero for COVID-19 and many of us brought COVID-19 home to our families. Work was stressful, isolating and scary as more of us caught the virus. The healthy were caring for the sick until the healthy become sick and the sick become healthy. It was just a cycle of taking care of one another,” Gamst said. “But the Dept. of Corrections family worked together to keep communities safe while continuing the programming we’ve committed to provide,” she added.
Minnesota has five state Veterans homes serving more than 700 Minnesota veterans, their spouses and Gold Star families. Brian MacNeill is a behavior analyst at the home in Minneapolis where veterans can live the final chapters of their lives in peace and comfort.
When the first COVID-19 outbreaks struck the home, staff did not have proper personal protective equipment, and many caught the virus or feared they would bring it home to loved ones.
“When our facility was in quarantine, when family and friends could not visit the veterans, we were there to hold their hands, to reassure them that we will get through this pandemic, that they are not alone,” MacNeill said. “We admire their military service and how much they sacrificed. They risked their lives to make the world safer for all of us, and we put their health above our own because it is now our turn to keep them safe.”
Thousands of MAPE members who worked on the frontlines during the pandemic may be eligible for the bonus checks. The online application form is being developed and expected to be completed in early June, and workers will have 45 days to apply for Frontline Worker Pay. Those whose applications are denied will have 15 days to appeal.
Each eligible applicant will be provided with an equal payment not to exceed $1,500. All applications will move through the process at the same time and payments will be forwarded at the same time for processing.
“I’m so proud of all the work MAPE members do every day to provide exemplary service to Minnesotans across the state. Members’ dedication and professionalism during these challenging times is greatly appreciated,” MAPE Statewide President Megan Dayton said.