The Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge. (Photo by Brianna Paciorka, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

Despite a bit of a computer stumble on the first day, the state has received in five days almost 185,000 applications from frontline employees – who went to work during the coronavirus pandemic “stay at home” order – seeking a one-time $250 check.

The Louisiana Legislature approved enough money to cover about 200,000 applicants and should reach that number of applications by the end of workday Tuesday.

But the Department of Revenue wants people to keep on applying in hopes that more money will be set aside in the future for the stipends.

“The Department of Revenue will continue to accept applications through the Oct. 31 statutory deadline. Receipt of the total number of applications for which funding is available does not mean eligible frontline workers should not apply. If additional funds become available, applications received after the current funds are disbursed will be approved on a first-come, first-served basis,” Byron Henderson, a Revenue spokesperson, said Monday.

Democratic legislators pushed for $50 million to pay the $250 rebate as a counterpoint to Republican efforts to send $275 million to help small businesses get back on their feet. The money comes out of the state’s $1.8 billion from the federal $2 trillion coronavirus aid package. Democrats argued that a number of people were called upon to continue working while the rest of the state stayed at home.

Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the legislation into law on July 13.

Two days later, the Revenue Department was ready to start accepting applications for the Frontline Worker COVID-19 Hazard Pay Rebate program. But July 15 also was the day state income tax returns were due.

During the dark hours of morning that first day, between midnight and sunrise, everything worked fine. But as the day progressed, the online computer system slowed, then stalled. Revenue Secretary Kimberly Robinson postponed the tax return deadline while the state Office of Technology Services took the computers offline to add more hardware and capacity. They were back online later in the afternoon that first day.

Workers from bus drivers to garbage collectors to grocery store clerks – people who stayed on the job during coronavirus pandemic while the rest of the state stayed home – can apply at https://frontlineworkers.la.gov/. Applications can be mailed or downloaded in printable form or are available by called (855) 307-3893.

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Checks will be delivered within three weeks of the applications being accepted.

Workers qualify if they make less than $50,000 a year, are Louisiana residents, and put in at least 200 hours between March 22 through May 14, when the state’s stay-at-home order was in place. They also need to have been employed as of March 11 in a job deemed essential. Obviously, nurse and cops are included. But so are home healthcare providers, hospital housekeepers and laundry personnel, firefighters and emergency personnel, convenience store clerks and home meal deliverers, as well as a host of other jobs in more than two dozen employment categories.

Independent contractors, self-employed individual, and gig workers may be eligible, if all of the same eligibility requirements are met.

The rebate may have been the Democratic answer to a Republican program, but nobody voted against the measure in the Legislature.

Legislators diverted federal dollars initially dedicated to help local government pay off its costs. Part of the money went to frontline workers. Another $275 million of the federal money earmarked for local governments to help business owners, who could be eligible for up $15,000 in grant money through the Main Street Recovery Program. The application process for businesses will begin July 28.

For the first 21 days, grants will be given to businesses who didn't receive federal assistance or insurance payments. Within 60 days, the program plans to award $40 million to businesses owned by veterans, minorities, and women.

State Treasurer John M. Schroder is administering the Main Street Recovery Program and has already opened a new website: www.louisianamainstreet.com

Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.