Minnesota “Hero” Pay Sure Doesn’t Feel Like It

Percy Bartelt, staff writer

In times of financial crisis, economic ruin and a serious pandemic that is still affecting lives to this day, Minnesota’s government knew it had to help its people. The stimulus check just wasn’t enough, but not to worry! Minnesota proposed a special, separate plan to send bonus checks of up to $1,500 to help reward our frontline workers (myself included) for what they endured working through the pandemic. However, when the time came, they couldn’t even give us $500 for risking our lives every single day for almost three years.

In case you aren’t familiar, the way it worked is that when the government put aside money for the program, it was a set amount — $500 million — and then workers in certain frontline jobs with salary requirements could submit an application to get a check if they worked at least 120 hours between March 2020 and June 2021. The total amount of the frontline pay each person would receive was to be split equally between all the recipients out of that original pool of cash but no more than $1,500 each. The state was expecting about 667,000 applications, which would have made each check about $750. 

But actually, nearly twice as many workers applied and over 1 million were finally approved after a vetting process — much to the chagrin of those receiving them, the final checks will equal $487.45. Don’t get me wrong, this money can and will go a long way for some people, but it’s simply not enough facing rising inflation but stagnant wages — especially for those frontline workers caring for families, with overdue bills to pay and the coming holiday season. In the end, I plan to use my frontline worker pay on holiday presents for my family, because the government sure won’t treat them adequately. So if you think that this should be enough for our troubles, you are sadly mistaken, and I encourage you to rethink your financial privilege.

Personally, I don’t have that many things in my name — so it’s adequate, although obviously more money would be nice. But from others I know, including most members of my family — both my age and older — this amount simply cycles through their bank account and back into the government’s pocket as if it hadn’t even been with them in the first place. I have two jobs, and I will be getting a third this coming summer, so do not claim to know where my money is going or that I’m wasting my money, and certainly listen to me when I say that $487.45 is not enough.

Minnesota’s government will say their hands are tied in terms of how much they could give their citizens, and that is absolutely correct and unfortunate that that is the case. However, this wouldn’t be the case if the wealthy elite were taxed the way they should. Trickle-down economics does not work. And our crisis funding is not helping as much as it should, given every other element in our way — low wages, inflation and fluctuating rent prices.

I implore you all to listen to those suffering — to be mindful the next time you get a cup of coffee or go to the grocery store and you see those frontline workers. Without them, this economy would be nothing, and yet we’re paying them like dirt and wondering why they’re in financial trouble.