Nurses and employers gathered with heads of state on Monday to celebrate the legislative session’s biggest achievement yet: legislation that will distribute payments of about $750 to frontline workers in the event of a pandemic and will prevent major tax increases for businesses.
It was a moment workers and business owners had wanted to see months ago – but a moment they and leaders cheered, noting they hope it will lead to more deals that will benefit Minnesota families in the last three weeks of the legislative session.
“That $750 at the Minnesota median income, that’s equal to a month’s rent. That equals groceries … That’s money that can be put back into their savings accounts. So that’s important,” said Nurses Association of Minnesota president Mary Turner as she tried to hold back tears. “But we still have work to do.”
Nurses, long-term care workers, educators, first responders, child care providers, grocery store staff and others who were unable to work from home when COVID-19 hit will be eligible for payments, said DFL House chair Melissa Hortman. Lawmakers estimated that 667,000 people would be eligible for the payments, totaling $500 million.
Monday’s signing of the bill was solemn. DFL Governor Tim Walz had already signed the deal on Friday, which was the culmination of a long-running dispute between legislative leaders.
“It’s a positive. I’m really grateful to the legislators who worked on this and all those who kept the faith. It bodes well,” Walz said.
It will likely take 10 to 12 weeks before frontline worker checks start to come out, Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Roslyn Robertson said. A supplier will create a system over the next two weeks where workers can apply for money and then there will be an application period, she said.
Many people don’t know they’re eligible, Walz said, and the state will work to publicize the money.
Business owners Raji Eid and Tez Hailu stood alongside the governor at Monday’s event at the Capitol. The deal lawmakers reached last week includes $2.7 million to replenish the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund that has been drained by the flood of jobless claims as workers have been laid off during the pandemic.
Many companies have seen their potential unemployment insurance tax rates rise significantly this year to fill the depleted trust fund. Walz and Senate Republicans had been pushing throughout the legislative session for a quick deal to funnel some of the projected budget surplus of nearly $9.3 billion into the fund to prevent interest rate hikes. ‘taxation.
“This deal took a lot longer than any of us had hoped. But at the same time, I think the outcome was probably better than expected,” said the Senate Majority Leader of the GOP, Jeremy Miller.
Businesses were required to submit payroll tax payments for the first quarter of the year by April 30, state officials said. Employers who paid the highest rates can get an automatic credit to their Unemployment Insurance account, which will go toward next quarter’s payment, said Department of Jobs and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove . It will land in the accounts in about seven to 10 days, he said.
However, business owners who want the state to write them a check will have to wait longer, he said.
“If you need the money now, it’s going to take us – we don’t know, a month, two months,” Grove said.
Eid and Hailu’s company, EIDS Cleaning & Consulting, operates on a shoestring budget, Hailu said, and the two said a large tax hike would have taken a heavy hit.
“We would have been done. Honestly. Literally, that would have been impossible,” Eid said.