St. Paul – The Minnesota House of Representatives passed legislation (Senate File 209) Thursday on a broad bipartisan vote of 104-25 to extend unemployment benefits for impacted and eligible out-of-work Iron Range employees by an additional 26 weeks. The extension would be made retroactive to the start of the recent steel-industry downturn.
“Republicans are committed to providing temporary assistance to those in need, as well as long-term solutions that will bring badly needed jobs to the Iron Range economy. We understand Minnesotans want a paycheck, not an unemployment check,” said Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown).
Reports indicate seven of the 11 mining operations on the Range were idled one after another last year and that 2,111 miners are out of work on the Iron Range right now. Another 1,514 workers have lost their jobs in mining support industries.
To address long-term job growth, the bill includes corrective measures to right-size the state's overfunded unemployment insurance trust fund, which currently is carrying a nearly all-time high $1.5 billion balance. The proposal credits approximately $258 million to employers who have paid in to the fund and reduces their future obligation to the trust fund when the balance exceeds the fully-funded threshold per federal standards.
“Today we’ve demonstrated that we can help the Range and help grow better-paying jobs across the state. By giving small businesses relief from unemployment insurance obligations, they can reinvest and hire more employees,” added Majority Leader Joyce Peppin (R-Rogers).
"I am pleased the House of Representatives passed this bill," said Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington). "In addition to getting necessary benefits to steelworkers who lost their jobs, we are also helping small businesses in Minnesota. This bill is one small part of a comprehensive approach to combating economic hardship on the Iron Range, and I'm glad we passed this today."
In 2014, when the trust fund balance was approximately $1.1 billion, Governor Mark Dayton and legislative Democrats made changes to the unemployment insurance rates resulting in a reduction of $346 million for employers.
The bill now heads to the Minnesota Senate for consideration before going to the governor’s desk. Governor Dayton said Tuesday he would sign what the Senate and House agree to as long it is 26 weeks and retroactive for everyone on the Iron Range who has been affected.