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Minnesota's frontline worker pay group takes shape, $250 million on the line

Ahead of a deadline Thursday, lawmakers this week were named to a working group that will allocate pay to workers that used PTO to quarantine or took unpaid leave.

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Dr. Fred Hund, left, a hospitalist at Carris Health – Rice Memorial Hospital, receives his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine administered Tuesday morning by nurse Nicole Aleshire in the Carris Health Lakeland Auditorium in Willmar. Hund was one of three frontline Carris Health workers to first receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune
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ST. PAUL — Five state lawmakers and three agency heads have been named to serve on a Minnesota working group charged with allocating $250 million to frontline workers that had to take leave for quarantining or illness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of their $52 billion budget agreement last month, state legislators agreed to set aside the funds to be paid out to the workers but they left open which groups would be eligible to receive them and how much would come their way.

Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday, July 14, announced that he would put up Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove, Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Roslyn Robertson and Minnesota Department of Revenue Commissioner Robert Doty to serve on the working group.

Earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, on Wednesday announced that Sens. Karin Housley, R-Stillwater, and Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, would join the group and Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent named Sen. Erin Murphy, D-St. Paul, to the panel. House Speaker Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, on Tuesday, July 13, named Reps. Ryan Winkler, D-Golden Valley, and Cedrick Frazier, D-New Hope, to the list.

In all, the working group will have nine members, and seven will have to agree to advance a plan to the state Legislature for approval. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, was also set to select a Republican member to join the group before a Thursday deadline.

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“Minnesota’s essential workers have borne a large burden of the COVID-19 pandemic to protect our communities and save lives," Walz said in a news release. "Now, with our COVID-19 Recovery Budget, we are able to provide hard-earned financial support to those who have fought on the frontlines."

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.
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