A state program that was supposed to launch in Minnesota earlier this month has been plagued by problems, causing frustration and confusion for Minnesotans interested in it - and there's no immediate end in sight.

The program in question is Minnesota's e-bike rebate program, which was funded by the state legislature in 2023, set to provide two summers of funding to provide interested taxpaying residents the opportunity to get up to $1,500 in the form of a rebate toward a new e-bike.

The program was supposed to open to the public on June 5, but over a week later, the public is still left in the dark about what's going on with it

What happened to cause the problem?

Error Message: Minnesota Department of Revenue Website
Error Message: Minnesota Department of Revenue Website

At 11 am on Wednesday, June 5, the application window for Minnesota's e-bike rebate program was supposed to open. The site, which is part of the Minnesota Department of Revenue's web presence, immediately crashed, leading to error messages for people visiting the site.

In all, fewer than 80 people were successfully able to complete an application before 1:30 pm on June, when the site was shut down for the State of Minnesota's IT team and their third-party vendor partners to come up with a solution for the site being unable to handle the demand the site faces.

READ MORE: This is how Minnesota's e-bike rebates are supposed to work

The site has remained down since, with the Minnesota Department of Revenue still not able to give a date when they expect to reopen applications over a week later.

What are Minnesotans saying about this?

In looking at messages on the original MDE X thread about the issues experienced last week, some residents are expressing frustration with the rollout of the process, while others have been disappointed about the lack of resolution to the issue.

Some expressed that they feel the program as a whole is "inequitable", as it is a first-come, first-served application for the rebate money rather than a lottery.

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With the clear popularity of the program (which crashed the website in the first place), the limited funding will likely quickly be used up. This has some people concerned with making sure ample notice is provided to make sure all interested parties are aware of when the new application window will open.

Why is this program set up this way, anyway?

Photo by Bao Chau on Unsplash
Photo by Bao Chau on Unsplash

While the Minnesota Department of Revenue has been tasked with managing the program, it was created and funded by the Minnesota Legislature in 2023.

The legislation that funded the program set aside two pools of $2 million to be used for these rebates on a first-come, first-served application process. The first $2 million pool is for a summer of 2024 application window, and the other $2 million for a summer of 2025 application window.

While $2 million sounds like a lot, when you consider that it could be used to pay out up to $1,500 to each individual who receives a rebate, that equates to about 1,500 people if each of them got the full potential rebate value - which is calculated based on a person's income from their previous year's taxes.

The Minnesota Department of Revenue, in an update this week, said they expect to award about 1,300 rebates.

With notably less than 2,000 people likely to receive one of these rebates this year, you can see why there would be concern among those interested in the program in making sure they can successfully get on the site right away.

What's the latest update on this program?

In a press release on June 12, the Minnesota Department of Revenue says it has yet to be determined when they will be able to reopen applications.

They say that they want to be sure the site will be able to handle the high demand they now know exists for this program.

They said they will give at least four days of notice before the application process is reopened, using press releases, social media, and an email update directly to interested individuals.

What happens when applications are available again?

The Department of Revenue says they won't be providing another update until they know a date when they'll be able to re-launch.

They say that they expect applications to be available for a very short period of time, once the window reopens. They say they will "accept a total of 10,000 submissions to fill the applicant pool". The application portal will shut down after this number of submissions is reached.

They note that they expect to award about 1,300 rebates this year. This will, of course, be dictated by the amount each individual gets. Applicants are eligible to get somewhere between 50% and 75% off the price of a new e-bike up to $1,500. The percentage is determined by your income from the previous year.

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