Louisiana workers can file Wednesday for $250 hazard payment

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana will start accepting applications Wednesday for a $250 one-time payment offered to front-line employees who checked out grocery customers, worked at nursing homes and performed other essential tasks in the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department of Revenue announced the application website and process Monday, after Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the legislation creating the hazard pay program with federal coronavirus aid.

Applicants can visit frontlineworkers.la.gov for eligibility details and to submit a payment request.

The revenue department encouraged people to apply quickly for the first-come, first-served program because lawmakers only earmarked $50 million in congressional aid for the program — not enough to cover everyone who may be eligible.

Lawmakers unanimously approved the bill by House Democratic leader Sam Jenkins, of Shreveport, in the June special session. Louisiana’s governor signed it into law Monday.

As many as 200,000 people could be eligible for the $250 one-time payment.

The checks are available to workers with an adjusted gross income of $50,000 or less and who had to report to a job outside of their home for at least 200 hours from March 22 through May 14. They have to hold one of the long list of jobs considered “essential critical infrastructure” under the bill.

Eligible workers include nurses, pharmacy staff, health care workers, housekeeping and janitorial staff, home health providers, childcare providers, EMS workers, law enforcement personnel, bus drivers, gas station workers and grocery store employees who meet the income and working hour criteria.

The Department of Revenue will verify an applicant’s eligibility.

Democratic lawmakers pushed the hazard pay proposal in a Republican-led special session that otherwise centered on helping businesses recover from the coronavirus pandemic. They said the checks would demonstrate support for workers who put themselves at risk to keep businesses running when Louisiana was under a stay-at-home order.

The dollars for the hazard payments come from $1.8 billion in direct federal aid sent to Louisiana by Congress to respond to the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus. Most of the money was spent to plug state budget gaps, while lawmakers set aside $275 million for small business grants and $500 million for reimbursement of local government virus response expenses.