‘It’s a good start’: Frontline workers respond to bonus payments – WCCO

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (WCCO) – After months of debate in the capital, lawmakers gathered to approve a bill providing for bonus payments to eligible frontline workers during the pandemic.

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

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Afro Deli and Grill employees are among more than 600,000 Minnesotans now eligible for frontline payments, a check estimated at $750 to thank for their hard work during the pandemic.

“People still had to eat, run errands, people had to take their pets to the vet. There are all these places where I feel like we didn’t put a lot of emphasis on who was left,” Hennebry said.

Employees must have worked a minimum of 120 hours, not be eligible to work remotely, and have not received unemployment benefits for more than 20 weeks. Income is capped at $175,000 for people who come into direct contact with COVID patients and $85,000 for others.

“Sometimes I made the boxes, sometimes I sat on the bus distributing them to families,” Sherrod Greene said.

Greene works at North High School as a food service coordinator and spent months during the pandemic making sure children were still fed.

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“I just enjoy serving the kids, talking to the kids, being an ear or a shoulder they can lean on,” he said.

Now, a father of a two-week-old girl said the money goes towards basic necessities.

“Baby nappies and diapers and everything to take care of the house because it’s not going to take care of the rent,” he said.

He hopes the gesture will lead to more support for frontline workers now and in the future.

An estimated 667,000 Minnesota is eligible for benefits. Frontline workers are defined as those who have worked within the past two years in long-term care and home care, health care, emergency response, public health, social service, regulatory service, courts and corrections, childcare, food service, retail, temporary shelters and hotels, construction services, public transportation , ground and air transport services, manufacturing and vocational rehabilitation.

“I think $700 can go a long way for people, so yeah, it’s a good start,” Hennebry said.

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Those seeking bonuses for frontline workers must apply within the next 45 days through the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. Details of the program can be found here.

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