SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed the compromise Jobs, Economic Development, and Labor budget following a bipartisan agreement reached with the Senate. The budget delivers resources for workers, families, and small businesses to recover from an incredibly challenging year.
“The resilience of Minnesota workers, families and small businesses are rooted in our community values. Despite every challenge thrown our way this year, I have witnessed incredible leadership, service and most importantly, compassion from Minnesotans across our state,” said Rep. Mohamud Noor (DFL - Minneapolis), chair of the Workforce and Business Development Committee. “With our bipartisan Jobs, Economic Development, and Labor Budget, we will be able to strengthen these values through critical solutions that will expand economic opportunity, invest in the health and security of our workers, and extend a helping hand to small businesses recovering from both an unprecedented pandemic and civil unrest.”
“The last year has been devastating for many Minnesotans, and it compounded struggles that many workers, families, and small businesses were facing even prior to the pandemic,” said Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL – International Falls), chair of the House Labor, Industry & Veterans Affairs Committee. “Our Jobs and Labor budget delivers strong investments to help businesses bounce back, improve economic security for workers, strengthen workplace safety, and includes a robust investment in high-speed broadband so more Minnesotans can have the reliable internet access they deserve. I’m proud we were able to reach a bipartisan budget compromise with the Senate that will create more opportunities to succeed in a post-COVID-19 Minnesota.”
The budget invests $70 million in grants to small businesses harmed by COVID-19 – up to $25,000 – with the smallest businesses prioritized, as well as BIPOC, women or veteran-owned businesses. Other business support in the bill includes $10 million in technical assistance for new businesses, $5 million for the Launch MN initiative to support high-tech startups, and funding for the Emerging Entrepreneur Loan Fund and the Northeast Entrepreneur Fund. Additionally, the legislation invests $80 million to help businesses rebuild following last year’s civil unrest, including those along the Lake Street, University Avenue, and West Broadway corridors. To help address the child care gap across the state, House DFLers were also successful in securing a historic $8 million investment to expand access to affordable child care. The budget also invests $70 million of federal funding over the next two years in broadband infrastructure to help more homes, businesses, and schools have access to reliable internet access.
“The burden of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit some harder than others. Our bipartisan budget provides assistance to small businesses that struggled through no fault of their own, more workplace protections, and expanded access to child care” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “This bill helps provide a measure of the economic security that Minnesotans deserve.”
To help connect Minnesotans with training for good-paying jobs, the legislation invests $34 million in several different nonprofit organizations from the Workforce Development Fund as well as additional funding for the Department of Labor and Industry’s apprenticeship program. The legislation also strengthens safety in workplaces through additional investments in the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and funding for a logger safety program. The bill also protects renters by requiring high-rise public housing buildings to be retrofitted with automatic fire sprinkler systems.
The legislation includes workplace protections for new and expectant mothers. Employers must give nursing mothers space and time to pump while requiring workers to be paid for the time. Workplace accommodations for pregnant mothers will now apply starting on a worker’s first day on the job rather than after 12 months of employment.
To protect workers and communities around the facilities, the House voted to add a measure requiring workers at oil refineries to have apprenticeship-level training. The Senate had previously added this provision to its version of the bill on a broad bipartisan vote, only to later remove it.
“It is critically important that refineries in Minnesota operate consistent with the highest safety standards possible, and that they employ skilled workers who are well-trained to manage the extreme risk that refinery accidents pose to our communities,” added Speaker Hortman. “Fires, spills, and accidents at refineries threaten surrounding communities with devastating harm. It’s no surprise that the Minnesota House of Representatives voted in favor of high safety standards and skilled workers to protect our communities. We will continue our efforts to achieve bipartisan agreement with the Republican majority in the Minnesota Senate and to send this provision to the Governor’s desk.”
While the House included them in its original budget, Senate Republicans blocked Earned Sick & Safe Time and Paid Family Leave, two important priorities for the health, wellbeing, and economic security of workers and their families. Senate Republicans also refused to accept DFL-led measures to help hospitality workers laid off during the pandemic be rehired, to improve safety at meatpacking facilities, to prohibit the use of credit reports when hiring, and to prohibit employers from reducing worker tips to pay for credit card fees.
“Workers and families need time to care for newborn babies, aging parents, and all sorts of events that happen over the course of our lives,” said Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “Democrats will continue to fight for a universal paid family and medical leave program because having time to care shouldn’t be a privilege for only those who can afford it.”
The budget agreement contains several changes to Unemployment Insurance (UI) law. After an 80-year prohibition, high school students will be eligible for unemployment benefits starting July 1, 2022. The bill also eliminates an outdated policy requiring an offset in UI benefits for seniors who receive social security benefits.