New Obligations for Frontline Sector Employers through Minnesota’s Frontline Worker Pay Program

On April 29, 2022, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed S.F. No. 2677 (2022) into law.  This law authorizes bonus payments to Minnesotans who worked in frontline sectors during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency.  This so-called “Hero Pay” law aims to thank eligible frontline workers for their sacrifices and hard work during the pandemic, when their work put them at risk of contracting COVID-19.

Application Timeline

As of June 8, 2022, Minnesota frontline workers can apply for Frontline Worker Pay online here.  The application for frontline pay will be open for 45 days, through July 22, 2022.  Eligible applicants can apply any time during the 45-day application period.  If an application is denied, applicants will have 15 days from the notice of the denial to appeal the denial.  After the 45-day application period, the 15-day appeals period, and the appeals review period, all the money allocated to the Frontline Worker Pay Program will be split among approved applicants.

Notice Requirements for Employer

Beginning June 8, 2022, employers in the identified frontline sectors (defined below) will have 15 days to advise all current workers who may be eligible for Frontline Worker Pay that they may have assistance available to them and how to apply for benefits.  Employers must provide this notice by June 23, 2022 and can find a notice meeting the law’s requirements at Frontline Worker Pay employer notice.  The same notice, translated into Spanish, Hmong, and Somali, is available here.

Employers must provide notice using the same means the employer uses to provide other work-related notices to employees.  The notice must be at least as conspicuous as:

  • Posting a copy of the notice at each worksite where workers work and where the notice may be readily observed and reviewed by all workers working at the site; or
  • Providing a paper or electronic copy of the notice to all workers.

An employer is not required to provide documentation or other verification for an employee’s frontline pay application to be processed.  The application will require the worker to certify that they meet all eligibility requirements and provide necessary information for verification.  The applicant will also be asked to provide authorization for the state to reach out to their current or former employer for purposes of eligibility verification if that is deemed necessary during application review.

Front Line Sectors Defined

The law specifically identifies 15 “frontline sectors” including the below, which are detailed in the MDLI Fact Sheet: Frontline Sector Guidance (also available here):  

  • Long-term care and home care: nursing homes; group homes; hospices; home health care; residential drug and alcohol facilities; and assisted living facilities.
  • Health care: offices of physicians, chiropractors, optometrists, mental health specialists and dentists; hospitals and medical clinics; family planning centers; substance abuse centers; dialysis centers; medical laboratories; blood and organ banks; freestanding ambulatory surgical and emergency centers; diagnostic imaging centers; and private air or ground ambulance services.
  • Emergency responders: police and fire departments; state police; sheriff’s offices; and public ambulance and fire services.
  • Public health, social service, and regulatory service: social services organizations; air and water resource and solid waste management programs; and government regulatory entities.
  • Courts and corrections: the state court system; publicly administered jails, prisons, and detention centers; district attorneys’ offices; public defenders’ offices; and publicly administered parole offices and probation offices.
  • Child care: child day care services; nursery schools; preschool centers; before- and after-school care; and Head Start programs.
  • Schools, including charter schools, state schools and higher education: K-12 education schools; colleges, universities, and junior colleges; professional schools; and business, technical and trade schools.
  • Food service, including production, processing, preparation, sale and delivery: crop and livestock production and processing; aquaculture; food and beverage manufacturing; wholesalers; food and beverage stores; restaurants and cafeterias; grocery stores; food service; mobile food services; and caterers.
  • Retail, including sales, fulfillment, distribution, and delivery: retail stores and other direct selling establishments; electronic shopping; motor vehicle and parts dealers; gas stations; postal services; private mail centers, couriers, and express delivery services; local messenger and delivery services; and general and refrigerated warehousing and storage facilities.
  • Temporary shelters and hotels: hotels; motels; bed-and-breakfasts; emergency and other relief services; community food services, food banks or pantries; soup kitchens; and temporary shelters.
  • Building services, including maintenance, janitorial and security: janitorial services; facility maintenance services; and security services.
  • Public transit: transit and ground passenger transportation, such as commuter rail systems, light rail systems, bus, and other motor vehicle transit systems; bus terminal and service facilities; senior citizen and special needs transportation; and school bus transportation.
  • Ground and air transportation services: airport operations; air traffic control; motor vehicle towing; freight transportation; loading or unloading at truck terminals; and transportation and warehousing.
  • Manufacturing: manufacturing facilities for products including, but not limited to, leather, apparel, wood, paper, petroleum, chemicals, plastics, rubber, metal, fabricated metal, computer and electronic products, medical equipment and supplies, and furniture.
  • Vocational rehabilitation: vocational rehabilitations services.

Eligible Employees

Eligible applicants can apply online for Frontline Worker Pay.  To be eligible, the applicant:

  • Must have worked1 at least 120 hours in Minnesota in one or more frontline sectors between March 15, 2020, and June 30, 2021.
    • For the hours worked during this period, the applicant:
      • Was not able to telework due to the nature of the individual's work; and
      • Worked in close proximity to people outside of the individual's household.
  • Must meet the income requirements for at least one year between December 31, 2019, and January 1, 2022
    • Workers with direct COVID-19 patient care responsibilities2 must have had an adjusted gross income of less than $350,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly, or less than $175,000 for other filers
    • For workers in occupations without direct COVID-19 patient care responsibilities, the adjusted gross income limit is $185,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly, or $85,000 for other filers; and
  • Must not have received an unemployment insurance benefit payment or serve a nonpayable week for more than 20 weeks on a cumulative basis for weeks between March 15, 2020, and June 26, 2021.

Applicants must be prepared to certify that they meet the above eligibility requirements, and will be required to provide the following information:

  • Name;
  • Address;
  • Phone number;
  • Email address;
  • Date of birth;
  • Social Security Number or Individual Tax Identification Number; and
  • Employer’s name, address, phone number, and email address.

Frontline worker payments will not be considered taxable income on 2022 state tax returns.  However, the payments will be included in federal adjusted gross income for federal tax purposes.  

Key Takeaways for Minnesota Employers

Given the new law, employers with operations in Minnesota should consider promptly taking several steps, including:

  • Determine if you are a frontline sector employer. 
  • If you are a frontline sector employer:
  1. Within 15 days (by June 23, 2022), advise all current workers who may be eligible for Frontline Worker Pay of the assistance potentially available to them and how to apply for benefits.  
  2. Consider the employer notice found here to meet your obligations.
  3. Strive to ensure that you effectively provide notice by using the same means you use to provide other work-related notices to employees. Employers should take steps to ensure that the notice is at least as conspicuous as: posting a copy of the notice at each worksite where workers work and where the notice may be readily observed and reviewed by all workers working at the site; or providing a paper or electronic copy of the notice to all workers.

See Footnotes

The Frontline Worker Pay Program applies to only employees in the frontline sector. Independent contractors and sole proprietors are not employees, and therefore, are not eligible for the program.

 Workers with direct COVID-10 patient care responsibilities are workers who provided direct care as part of their job duties to individuals diagnosed with COVID-19.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.