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The second week of session has concluded, and it was certainly a busy week. I continue to serve on the same committees as last session, including as vice chair of Early Childhood Finance & Policy. My other committees are Preventive Health Policy Division and Rules & Legislative Administration.
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The highlight from this week was Tuesday’s Joint House Early Childhood Finance and Policy & House Workforce and Business Development Finance and Policy hearing where the topic was “Child Care & Early Learning: The Critical Foundation for Minnesota's Economy.” Testifier’s included child development experts, experts on the business of providing childcare, and business and community leaders. We heard how the first 1000 days of a child’s life are foundational to brain development and sets the stage for all that follows.
Across the state, working families are struggling to find affordable care for their children during these critical developmental years. These working parents are vital to the workforce driving Minnesota’s economy. Equally significant is the childcare providers workforce shortage. We learned how their low wages are essentially subsidizing the system now, but this low wage, high cost system is not sustainable. The need is clear: we must do right for our youngest Minnesotans, the workers who care for them, and the parents whose work sustains our economy.
Also, today the Early Childhood and Housing Committees and the Preventing Homelessness Division held a joint informational hearing to discuss a proposal to expand the eligibility of the Homework Starts with Home Program to children aged 0-5, and discussion of the importance of stable housing on the development of children. You can watch the hearing on the Minnesota House YouTube channel.
House DFL Frontline Worker Bonus Pay and the UITF Proposals Advance
This week, two key pieces of legislation advanced, making up part of the House DFL’s overall proposal on Economic Security. HF 2900, which appropriates $1 billion for bonus payments to thousands of frontline workers. HF 1035, which would appropriate $1.2 billion to settle the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund (UITF) debt.
The frontline worker bonus pay legislation builds upon the efforts of last year’s working group and invests $1 billion to recognize Minnesotans who have worked on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Depending on the number of accepted applications, eligible workers would receive payments of up to $1,500.
The Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund (UITF) legislation would pay back the UITF’s $1.2 billion debt, owed to the federal government, while also providing for no additional assessments in 2022, making hourly school workers eligible for UI in the summer months, and increasing the period from 20 days to 60 days for UI applicants and employers to appeal when the Department of Employment and Economic Development decides on UI eligibility. The UITF legislation would be largely funded with the remaining American Rescue Plan funds, about $1.15 billion, with the remainder coming from the General Fund.
With the enormous amount of UI benefits paid to laid-off workers due to the pandemic, the balance in the state’s UITF went from $1.6 billion in February 2020 to -$1.2 billion as of Feb. 1, 2022. Video of the hearing is available on the House Public Information Youtube Page.
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Stay connected with the legislature
The Minnesota House of Representatives Public Information Services offers nonpartisan recaps of high-profile bills, committee hearings, and floor sessions with their Session Daily publication. Subscribe to receive these here. To track bills of interest through the legislative process, I encourage you to utilize the MyBills feature on the Minnesota House of Representatives’ website here.
Please continue to reach out with any input, ideas, or feedback about the issues important to you. I value hearing from you, so please don’t hesitate to call or email me any time. You can also connect with me on Facebook here. It’s an honor to represent you at the State Capitol.