Waiting on a Minnesota 'hero check?' It's getting smaller

More than 901,000 people have applied for frontline worker bonus pay in Minnesota, far more than state officials anticipated.

That means the checks will be smaller than the $750 initially expected. Lawmakers capped the bonus pool at $500 million, and the final check size won't be known until the application window ends July 22. State officials and labor unions initially expected just 667,000 people would apply.

Gov. Tim Walz said he understood some workers would be disappointed by a smaller check after working through the COVID-19 pandemic and a legislative delay as lawmakers haggled over the program's implementation.

"I’m here to try to get as many people as possible with an understanding that will lower the payment," Walz told reporters at a Wednesday news conference with unions that encouraged eligible workers to sign up.

Officials with the state Department of Labor and Industry declined to say how many applications they've already ruled out as ineligible. Workers in 15 industries are eligible to apply, so long as they meet income limits and a handful of other restrictions.

"We don’t know exactly how many the number of applicants who are not qualified. We are moving through a number of verification processes all at the same time," said Nicole Blissenbach, a deputy labor commissioner.

Staffers are doing verifications that each applicant did not receive more than 20 weeks of unemployment benefits, works in an eligible industry, and meets income criteria.

They will send denials at once after the application window closes, Blissenbach said. Rejected applicants then have 15 days to file an appeal.

Multiple trade associations have been encouraging members to have their workers apply -- even if they don't work in an eligible industry.

"I think it’s not so much throwing anything at the wall," Walz said when asked about it. "I think people believe, rightfully so, that they’re essential workers and they want to be part of this."