SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed its Labor, Industry, Workforce, and Business Development budget. The bill helps families, workers, and small businesses emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic, and includes critical investments and protections for Minnesotans’ economic security, like Earned Sick & Safe Time and Paid Family & Medical Leave. The bill passed on a vote of 69-64.
“Minnesota workers are the backbone of our state’s economy, but over the past year, they’ve faced extraordinary difficulties. Many of them have found themselves in a terrible predicament through no fault of their own and on top of worrying about COVID-19, also have worried about how they will put food on the table or pay bills,” said Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL – International Falls), Chair of the House Labor, Industry, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. “The House DFL is working to address the unique challenges Minnesotans are facing right now while strengthening the long-term economic security for workers, families, and small businesses.”
The legislation expands Earned Sick & Safe Time for all Minnesota workers so they don’t need to choose between taking care of themselves or a sick child and getting a paycheck. The proposal would ensure, at a minimum, one hour of paid Earned Sick & Safe Time for every 30 hours worked, up to at least 48 hours per year. It also extends Paid Family & Medical Leave to all Minnesota workers to ensure they have the opportunity to bond with a newborn or care for a loved one experiencing a long-term illness. Workers would be able to access up to 12 weeks of leave, and the program would be funded through a small assessment paid by employers, about $6.25 per week for each employee. Employers can choose to have workers pay half of the premium amount.
“The burden of protecting Minnesotans from the spread of COVID-19 has hit some workers and businesses harder than others. House Democrats are taking critical and needed steps to improve economic security for Minnesotans,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “Minnesotans deserve to be safe on the job, have paid family leave and earned sick and safe time to care for a newborn or recover from illness, and assistance if they lost their job or their small business struggled due to the pandemic.”
In addition to funding for the Department of Labor & Industry (DLI) and the Bureau of Mediation Services, the House Labor and Industry budget supports workers and families who have been devastated by COVID-19. For example, the bill includes the Safe Workplaces for Meat and Poultry Processing Workers Act in response to devastating outbreaks at JBS and other plants that employ meatpacking workers. The bill has rehire and retention protections for displaced hospitality workers post-recovery, many of whom are people of color. The provision requires certain hospitality businesses to rehire their laid-off workers when they are once again filling positions. It applies to hotels, event centers, airport hospitality businesses, and building maintenance and security.
“The past year has brought extensive amounts of economic hardship to working families and small businesses. This bill will help deliver long-lasting financial stability, recover from COVID-19 damages, and revive the vibrancy of our state through an equitable approach to distribution,” said Rep. Mohamud Noor (DFL - Minneapolis), chair of the Workforce and Business Development Committee. “We are passing unprecedented and transformative economic development solutions, and as legislators, it’s our job to step into leadership and advance legislation that will carry us back into economic security.”
The budget appropriates funding from the Workforce Development Fund (WDF) – about $65 million generated from a payroll assessment on employers. It invests in the Helmets to Hardhats program help veterans get training and jobs in the building trades, Labor Education Advancement Program (LEAP) grants to promote apprenticeship training for women and workers of color, DLI’s Youth Skills training program that awards grants to partnerships of local schools and employers, and the Dual-Training Pipeline program that provides on-the-job training and certification in high-demand industries. This legislation will provide struggling small businesses with over $75 million in investments, including $50 million to be used as emergency relief, and $12 million to aid new or existing child care providers supporting Minnesota’s workforce.
“Having time to care for your family or yourself should not be a patchwork system where access is based on privilege,” said Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “Establishing universal paid leave for everyone is how our state government can help workers and their families emerge from this pandemic stronger. The only obstacle preventing the Legislature from helping more Minnesotans get ahead is the anti-worker Republican Senate and their corporate donors.”
To ensure all displaced workers receive help, Unemployment Insurance (UI) eligibility will be extended to high school students and all school workers over the summer months. Additionally, the bill will reform the Workforce Development Fund to distribute dollars based on the competency of community organizations to train and prepare disadvantaged workers for a thriving and more equitable process, and provides flexibility for the Minnesota Investment Fund and the Job Creation Fund. The bill also creates a new Microenterprise Development Program with grants for low-income entrepreneurs, and grant funding for well-established nonprofit organizations with long histories of supporting small businesses, especially those that are minority-owned. A previously passed measure to require automatic sprinkler systems in highrise residential buildings is also included in the bill.
The bill language can be accessed here and a spreadsheet of the investments made in the budget bill can be accessed here. Video of the floor session will be available on House Public Information Services’ YouTube channel.