ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - The number of Minnesotans in line for a frontline worker bonus this fall will be much larger than state officials originally expected, even after issuing denials to 214,209 people on Tuesday.
Nearly 1.2 million people applied this summer, meaning the state has deemed 985,207 eligible. That number may rise because people who were sent a denial can appeal through Aug. 31.
The bonus pool is capped at $500 million, meaning each approved person stands to get around $500. The state Legislature approved the bonus pay as a thanks to workers who were on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, and state officials initially expected just 667,000 to apply, which would've made the check size $750.
Minnesota labor officials have said they plan to issue front line worker bonuses in September.
Reasons for Tuesday's denials varied, officials at the state Department of Labor and Industry said. The state turned aside 95,282 applications because people did not include proper identity verification.
Another 54,877 people were ineligible because they were above the threshold for unemployment benefits. To receive a bonus, workers couldn't have gotten more than 20 weeks of jobless benefits.
The state denied 54,710 applications because those workers did not work in one of the 15 covered industries. Another 42,867 people did not fit the state's income cap. For workers without direct COVID patient care responsibilities, the cap was $85,000 for individuals and $185,000 for married couples. For health care workers with direct COVID patient responsibilities, the cap was $175,000 for individuals and $350,000 for married couples.
The state rejected 47,145 applications because they were duplicates.
Minnesota labor officials have said they plan to issue payments in September. The state is notifying people whose applications were denied about how they can appeal.
Workers report confusion
Jonathan Lundberg, an airport package handler for United Parcel Service Inc., said he was surprised to get a denial notice that claimed he made too much money to qualify.
"It should’ve been a slam dunk, getting one of the approval emails," said Lundberg, who lives in Eagan. "I get an email that says, your application has been denied. Your annual gross income is too high. And I went, ‘I don’t think that’s the case.’"
Lundberg said he is pulling tax documents to appeal his case.
Labor officials declined to say if they had discovered any errors on their part. Anyone who thinks they were denied in error should file an appeal, they said.
Separately, several people reported confusion about their status after receiving an email that read, "Your appeal is in process, no further action is required." The people said they didn't file an appeal, only the original application. State officials said that was an incorrect subject line that's since been changed to "your application is in-progress," and that people don't need to do anything.
Other workers said they were disappointed that the checks would not be as large as first thought.
"I’ve been looking at the news and seeing how that big bonus is kind of shrinking, and I’m like, it’s a salt crumb in my hand," said Tira Smith, a preschool teacher in Minneapolis. "I feel like we deserve more. We’ve been here helping the government run and keeping things afloat."
The Legislature should've approved more money for the bonuses, Smith said.