The working group, tasked with distributing $250 million in direct financial support for front-line workers, sent two proposals to the Legislature after failing to reach a compromise.
A Front-Line Worker Pay Working Group has met over the past several months to determine how to distribute $250 million to front-line workers for their work during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After weeks of stalled progress due to disagreements on who should qualify for the front-line pay, the group met one last time on Oct. 27 to attempt to reach an agreement, requiring at least seven votes out of the nine members. Ultimately, the working group voted forward two separate proposals to the Legislature.
Disagreements on eligibility, agreements on administration
The Republican proposal would provide $1,200 bonus pay to approximately 130,000 front-line workers, including those in long-term care, hospice and home care, direct patient care, outpatient health care and pharmacies, and emergency responders and corrections.
The DFL and Administrative Members’ proposal would provide $375 bonus pay to approximately 667,000 workers, broadening the pool of workers to include those in food service, child care, schools, and other sectors in addition to the workers outlined in the Republican proposal.
The working group does agree on several components of the distribution, such as only including workers that could not telecommute, not including administrative costs in the $250 million allocated for bonus pay, and payment exclusion for Minnesota income taxes and public program income limits.
Members of the Front-Line Worker Pay Working Group
The working group chair is Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) who also serves as House majority leader and chair of the Rules and Legislative Administration Committee. The vice chair is Sen. Karin Housley (R-Stillwater), who also serves as Senate assistant majority leader and chair of the Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee.
The other members include Rep. Anne Neu Brindley (R-North Branch), Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL-New Hope), Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake), Sen. Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul), Department of Revenue Commissioner Robert Doty, Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove, and Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Roslyn Robertson.
Outlook for special session
It was the intention of Gov. Tim Walz to hold a special session to allocate the funds once the group came to an agreement, though it is unclear whether he will move forward with the special session without a bipartisan proposal.
Once an agreement between parties is reached, the Department of Labor estimates that it will take three months to set up the application system, accept applications, and distribute pay.