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House DFL proposals on Frontline Worker Bonus Pay and the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund heard in Workforce and Business Development Committee

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

St. Paul, MN - Today, the House Workforce and Business Development Finance and Policy Committee heard testimony on two key pieces of legislation that make 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, advanced through committee. HF 1035, which would appropriate $1.2 billion to settle the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund debt, is also expected to pass the committee when it returns from recess this evening. 

The frontline worker bonus pay legislation, authored by Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL - New Hope), builds upon the efforts of last year’s working group on this issue, and invests $1 billion in order to meaningfully recognize the 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. 

“We need to get this support to frontline workers,” said Rep. Frazier. “No one who hasn’t been in their position can quite understand the toll that it takes to put your life and your family’s well-being in jeopardy, just to do your job. Over the course of this pandemic, our healthcare workers, teachers, and childcare workers have kept our communities going. Now, we’re seeing record burnout in these professions. It’s time to show that we, as the state of Minnesota, care about their work, and give them a bit of relief as we’re giving relief to businesses.”

The committee heard testimony on this legislation from Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Roslyn Robertson; the Service Employees International Union; the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union; the Minnesota Nurses Association; Education Minnesota; the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees; and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The committee then began testimony on the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund (UITF) legislation, authored by the committee’s chair, Rep. Mohamud Noor (DFL - Minneapolis). 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. 

“Unemployment insurance is a crucial safety net for Minnesota’s workers, and it has been a lifeline for many during the pandemic,” said Rep. Noor. “Paying our state’s debt is a duty we must meet, and we can do so in a way that brings Minnesotans who have been left out under the protection of unemployment insurance while also ensuring that businesses are supported. This way we can build a strong and equitable economic recovery that supports families, workers, and businesses.”

This legislation would pay back the UITF’s $1.2 billion debt, which is 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 makes a determination 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. 

HF 2900 was referred to the Labor, Industry, Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee, and HF 1035 is expected to be referred to Ways and Means when the committee returns this evening. Amendments and supporting materials from today’s hearing can be found on the committee’s webpage. Video of today’s hearing is available on the House Public Information Youtube Page

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