SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Today, Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL – International Falls) drafted legislation to extend Unemployment Insurance benefits 26 weeks for workers laid off as a result of Northshore Mining’s ongoing shutdown. The bill would be on the table for consideration in a potential special session of the legislature.
“Learning that Northshore Mining will be shut down well into 2023 means workers and their families in our region will face an uncertain economic future through no fault of their own. A special session would give us the opportunity to not only help these folks get through this tough time, but to finish other critical work left incomplete from the regular session,” Rep. Ecklund said. “Our region has experienced similar adversity in the past, but that doesn’t make the hardship any easier now. We owe it to these workers and their families to do whatever is in our power to help them navigate this difficulty, and it’s time to set aside election-year politics and do the right thing for the people of northern Minnesota.”
In May, Cleveland Cliffs idled operations at Northshore Mining, leaving workers at its pellet plant in Silver Bay and mine in Babbitt jobless. Last month, Cliffs announced the facilities will remain idle through at least April 2023. Without action from state lawmakers, most impacted workers will exhaust their unemployment benefits in November before the next regular legislative session convenes in January.
Rep. Ecklund’s legislation would provide for a maximum of 26 additional weeks of unemployment benefits to iron ore mining industry workers – about 410 – who were laid off after April 15, 2022 through August 31, 2023. Those who work for firms providing goods or services to the iron ore mining industry and lost their jobs as a result of the shutdown would also be eligible. The extended benefits wouldn’t be used to compute the future unemployment tax rate for a business, and workers eligible for Trade Readjustment Allowance benefits wouldn’t be eligible.
A copy of Rep. Ecklund’s proposed legislation can be accessed here.