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Bridges to Work bill gets hearing

Published (3/9/2012)
By Nick Busse
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A plan to let Minnesotans collecting unemployment benefits participate in a new on-the-job training program was laid over by a House committee.

Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul) sponsors HF2184 that would establish a “Bridge to Work Minnesota” pilot program. It would allow up to 5,000 unemployed workers to receive up to eight weeks of paid training with an employer without losing their unemployment insurance benefits.

Under the provisions, employers would pay the participants a stipend equal to or greater than the state’s hourly minimum wage. Up to 25 hours per week of paid training would be authorized, and the employers would have to agree to hire the individuals for at least

90 days after the training period ends.

Mahoney said the bill would benefit employers by letting them pay someone minimum wage while training them for a $20–$25 per hour job. For the workers, it represents a chance to re-enter the workforce.

“For the unemployed worker, they get a foot in the door for a possible job, as well as valuable on-the-job training. They also get a paycheck,” Mahoney said, adding that similar programs have been implemented in Georgia and Texas.

The House Jobs and Economic Development Finance Committee laid the bill over for possible omnibus inclusion. Sen. Ken Kelash (DFL-Mpls) sponsors the companion, SF1940, which awaits action by the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Committee.

Rep. Larry Howes (R-Walker) said he’d like to find a way for people who have exhausted their unemployment benefits to be eligible for the program too.

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