Frontline Workers in St. Paul React to Bonus Pay from Local Government

After months of deliberation, lawmakers agreed to enact a bill that would provide bonus pay to qualifying frontline employees during the epidemic.

“I think it’s a fantastic way to say, hey, we noticed you, we saw what you were doing, and that’s amazing,” said Joseph Hennebry, manager of the Afro Deli and Grill.

Afro Deli and Grill employees are among the more than 600,000 Minnesotans who are now eligible for frontline worker reimbursements, which include a $750 check to thank them for their efforts during the epidemic.

“People still needed to eat, go grocery shopping, take their dogs to the doctor,” Hennebry said. “I feel like we didn’t put a lot of attention on who was still out there.”

Workers must have worked a minimum of 120 hours, be ineligible for remote work, and have not received unemployment benefits for more than 20 weeks. People who work directly with COVID patients can earn up to $175,000, while others can earn up to $85,000.

Sherrod Greene explained, “I would sometimes build the boxes, and sometimes I would be on the bus passing them out to families.”

Greene, who works as a food service coordinator at North High School, spent months throughout the epidemic ensuring that children were still fed.

He added, “I simply love feeding the kids, chatting to the kids, and being an ear or a shoulder for them to depend on.”

Now that he is the father of a 2-week-old baby girl, he says the money will be used for necessities.

“Wipes and diapers, and everything else to keep the house clean, because it won’t pay the rent,” he explained.

He believes that the gesture would result in increased assistance for frontline employees in the present and future.

A total of 667,000 Minnesotans are expected to be eligible for a payout. Long-term care and home care, health care, emergency response, public health, social service, regulatory service, courts and corrections, child care, food service, retail, temporary shelters and hotels, building services, public transit, ground and air transportation services, manufacturing, and vocational rehabilitation are all examples of frontline workers.

“I think $700 can go a long way for folks,” Hennebry added.

Those interested in receiving frontline worker incentives must apply within the next 45 days through Minnesota’s Department of Labor and Industry. The program’s details may be found here.

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