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Friday, January 27, 2023

Over 600,000 Minnesota Workers Given ‘Hero Pay’ Bonuses

According to state authorities, 667,000 Minnesota employees who were on the front lines of the epidemic should get their $750 incentive cheques in 10 to 12 weeks.

As Democratic Gov. Tim Walz staged a ceremonial signing ceremony for a $2.7 billion law enacted Friday that provides “hero pay” incentives and repeals a tax hike that was required to refill the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund, cabinet commissioners laid out some specifics.

The measure was signed by the governor on Friday, when he took a break from his son’s high school volleyball game to meet a deadline. But he arranged Monday’s luncheon to thank lawmakers and stakeholders, as well as to commemorate the 2022 parliamentary session’s largest bipartisan accomplishment thus far.

The Department of Labor and Industry is now putting the finishing touches on the application procedure for the frontline worker incentives. Meanwhile, because lawmakers didn’t break their deadlock on the two problems until late last week, the Department of Employment and Economic Development is processing credits and refunds for firms who had to pay higher unemployment insurance taxes in the first quarter.

Over the next three to four weeks, a vendor will construct the online application system, according to Labor and Industry Commissioner Roslyn Robertson. Within the next month, it should be up and operating. After that, she explained, there would be a 45-day application period and a 15-day appeal period.

“When you add all of those timeframes together, I believe we’re looking at about 10 to 12 weeks before we can reasonably expect checks to leave the building,” Robertson said.

She said that more than 22,000 people have already signed up for updates on the process on the state’s Frontline Worker Pay website.

According to Democratic Rep. Cedrick Frazier of New Hope, a main negotiator on the accord, the history of other states shows that virtually all of the 667,000 qualified employees will apply for the $750 payments.

Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development Steve Grove said his department will spend the next week to ten days recalculating tax bills for about 130,000 to 140,000 firms to offset the recent automatic rise in the unemployment insurance fee.

Grove added that further information is accessible on the unemployment insurance website. Employers who have already paid their first-quarter bills, which were due Monday, will get credits that they may use to their second-quarter costs or request refunds that will take a few months, he added.

The agreement on frontline workers and unemployment insurance leaves about $6 billion of the state’s $9.25 billion budget surplus to be allocated in the final three weeks of the legislative session. Walz has stated unequivocally that he will not call a special session to give legislators extra time.

However, the House Democratic and Senate Republican majorities disagree on whether the remaining surplus should be used for permanent income tax cuts, as Republicans want, or for targeted tax relief, such as expanded child care and property tax credits and refunds, as well as spending on education and other programs, as Democrats propose. On crime and other matters, there are still significant policy disagreements.

Walz expressed optimism that the agreement will help generate momentum for bipartisan concessions on the remaining problems before the May 23 deadline. And, despite the fact that his plan for one-time income tax rebates of $500 for single taxpayers and $1,000 for joint filers isn’t included in either the Senate or House tax legislation, he believes it is “alive and strong.”

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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