SUBSCRIBE NOW Just 99¢ for your first month

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

$250 million in Minnesota front-line worker hero payments still stuck in negotiations

A state working group buzzed past its Labor Day deadline without a deal on who should get the funds or how much they'd be eligible to receive.

051820.N.FNS.MNLEGFINAL3
House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, bottom left, and House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, right, speak on the Minnesota House floor late Sunday, May 17, 2020. (Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service)
We are part of The Trust Project.

ST. PAUL — Minnesota lawmakers and commissioners on Monday, Sept. 6, blew past a deadline to strike a deal on how to dole out $250 million to front-line workers who took unpaid time off to quarantine or were sickened with COVID-19 during the pandemic.

The Minnesota Legislature in setting aside the funds gave the front-line working group a Labor Day deadline to reach a recommendation for the funds but members worked through the weekend but came up short of an agreement.

The two lawmakers leading the panel on Tuesday, Sept. 7, said members were hoping to reach a unanimous agreement on a path forward, and that would likely take more time. They didn't set a timeframe for reaching a deal.

“We understand and share the sense of urgency to move forward with a recommendation. To get this right and get unanimous support among working group members, it’s going to take more time to collect and analyze data about the state’s workforce," House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, D-Golden Valley, and Sen. Karin Housley, R-Stillwater, said. "We will continue to work until an agreement is reached.”

Prior to entering private meetings over the weekend, Republicans on the panel had said lawmakers should prioritize larger payments for nurses, nursing home staff and first responders who directly worked with COVID-19 patients and vulnerable people. Democrats, meanwhile, said the state should open the application to a larger pool of frontline workers who'd faced health risks during the pandemic.

ADVERTISEMENT

And splits remained among members as to the best course moving forward.

"This pandemic has been difficult and has been scary for a lot of people but I think that we have to acknowledge that folks working in long-term care, nurses in hospitals and ICUs and emergency rooms and first responders, those working in our correctional facilities were taking on a different level of risk," House Assistant Minority Leader Anne Neu Brindley, R-North Branch, said. "These folks absolutely knew that they were going to work every day directly with COVID-positive patients and they still showed up."

For more than a month, the workgroup has aimed to identify the front-line workers who put themselves at the greatest risk during the pandemic and should be considered for state aid. Almost 1 million Minnesotans could be eligible for the funds as roughly that many had worked positions that the federal government classified as essential during the pandemic.

Seven of the panel's nine members need to agree to a funding plan to advance it to the Minnesota Legislature. Gov. Tim Walz could then call lawmakers back to St. Paul for a special legislative session to approve a proposal.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email dferguson@forumcomm.com

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
What to read next
Lawmakers face a Sunday deadline to complete spending and tax bills and to pass them through both chambers. As of Friday morning, they had extensive work left to complete before then.
A seemingly happy family ended in tragedy after the father bludgeoned his wife to death, suffocated his 9-year- and 22-month-old children, lit his house on fire and then hanged himself 38 years ago.
Humans have eaten venison from CWD-infected deer before and did not get the disease, but at a recent Minnesota legislative hearing on this year’s environment and natural resources bill, a leader in the state’s effort to trace CWD said the key to preventing a possible animal-human jump is identifying and slowing the spread.
The Rainy River watershed is overflowing from Lake Vermilion to Lake of the Woods, with flood records possible.