Lawmakers in the Minnesota House passed legislation that will utilize funds from a budget surplus to award “bonus checks” to frontline workers throughout the state.

According to a release from legislators, 667,000 individuals in the state will qualify for up to $1,500 in bonus checks, including “responders, nurses, child care providers, janitors and so many others who have sacrificed their health during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The legislation passed on a 71-61 vote.

“From the very beginning of this pandemic, Minnesota’s frontline workers have put their health and safety on the line to keep the economy going, treat COVID patients, provide child care, teach our children, respond to emergencies, ensure we all have food, and so much more,” said Speaker Melissa Hortman.

However, many Republicans criticized the use of the money and the response of Democrats during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I cannot overstate how much COVID, and the government’s response to COVID, caused havoc on our society. It destroyed lives, and livelihoods. Government cannot make you whole by taking your money and giving it back to you,” said Representative Jeremy Munson (R-Lake Crystal).

Minnesota lawmakers have placed a heavy emphasis on frontline workers through legislation this year. Earlier, a bipartisan bill passed that will extend the coronavirus presumption for workers that have contracted COVID while on the job.

Specifically, the measure details that certain employees who test positive for COVID-19 are presumed to have an “occupational disease” and are therefore covered by the Minnesota workers’ compensation law.

“Every day throughout this pandemic, frontline workers have protected us and have saved lives,” Governor Walz said at the time. “This bipartisan bill — passed within days of the legislature gaveling in for the 2022 session — makes it clear that in Minnesota, we are grateful for our first responders, take care of our workers, and give them both the benefits they deserve.”

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Cooper Moran is a reporter for The Minnesota Sun and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].