A task force failed to allocate $ 250 million for frontline workers in Minnesota who remained at work during the pandemic and sent two proposals to the politically divided legislature.
The frontline worker compensation task force has held meetings for months and heard from dozens of workers deemed essential during the pandemic before closing their panel on Wednesday by voting 8-1 to push forward a pair of plans to move forward. duels that differed little from those introduced by the Democrats and Republicans on the committee in July.
The result puts the issue before the Legislature, where the divided House and Senate leaders could face equally difficult difficulties in reaching an agreement. And it extends the wait for frontline workers who sought help after being sick with COVID-19 on the job or having to take unpaid leave to self-quarantine.
Lawmakers and Democratic-Farmer-Labor commissioners who held a majority in the task force said the result was a failure for workers. And they lamented that Republicans delayed their efforts to reach a compromise. GOP members, meanwhile, called the result a success and urged DFL Governor Tim Walz to quickly summon lawmakers for a special session so the legislature can put in place a check-mailing program. to eligible workers.
âWe ended up with the frontline task force that failed in its mission,â said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, who co-chaired the task force. âIf lawmakers acted like the front line workers, we would be done with this today. And if frontline workers were to behave like lawmakers, the Minnesotans would be in terrible shape today. “
Senator Karin Housley, R-Stillwater, also co-chaired the panel, and she said bringing the proposals to the Legislature fulfills the group’s mission and could speed up the process of getting money to workers in First line.
âWe did our job today,â Housley said. âThe end goal was to get a proposal or two or three in the Legislature. â¦ It was time to put an end to this political theater. Each week that goes by is another week when these checks are not in the hands of these frontline workers. “
At the heart of their disagreement was a dispute over the meaning of the term âfrontline workerâ. Democrats said it encompasses a pool of 667,000 health workers, first responders, meat packers, grocers and others who can’t work from home and interact with others face-to-face at work. And they said the group should be able to ask for $ 375.
Meanwhile, Republicans said it covered a smaller group of workers, including nurses, correctional officers, nursing home guards and first responders who interacted with confirmed patients with COVID-19. . These workers should be entitled to $ 1,200, GOP lawmakers said.
Walz said the wages of frontline workers, aid payments to drought-affected farmers and COVID-19 response measures should all be addressed in a special legislative session. And he drew a red line for Republicans, saying he would refuse to recall lawmakers in St. Paul’s unless senators agree not to fire members of his cabinet – namely Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm – or take vaccines or test warrants for state employees.
Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller R-Winona has so far rejected the terms and said Republicans would also like to weigh state laws around executive authority in such emergencies. than the pandemic.