About 500,000 of Massachusetts' lowest-earning workers can expect $500 payments from the state as bonuses for working on the front lines of the pandemic in 2020.

Lawmakers put aside $500 million dollars from the federal government's pandemic relief aid to Massachusetts to make direct payments to low-wage workers, who may have had to work in public during the early days of the pandemic. Now the Baker administration had put a system in place to distribute the funds to an initial 500,000 workers.

“I was pleased to sign the COVID-19 Essential Employee Premium Pay program into law in December, and our Administration has worked quickly to design the parameters for the program with plans to efficiently begin distribution of these payments by the end of March,” Gov. Charlie Baker wrote in a statement.

Workers are eligible for payments if they made at least $12,750 and their total income was below three-times the federal poverty line, which ranges from $38,000 to over $130,000 depending on household size, according to the Baker administration.

The formula means a 20-hour-a-week worker making minimum wage, likely in a public-facing job, would be eligible.

If someone claimed unemployment benefits, they won't be eligible for these payments, which are targeted at the poorest earners who still had to go into work when the rest of the state was essentially shut down.

State officials expect further rounds of checks or deposits to go out soon after the March payments to distribute the rest of the $210 million set aside by lawmakers in the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act spending law.