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Omnibus workforce bill focuses on worker shortage, wealth gaps

The omnibus workforce and business development finance and policy bill would direct $180 million in spending with an emphasis on addressing worker shortages and wealth gaps as the state’s economy rebounds from the pandemic.

“This is an all-hands-on deck approach for a sustainable, equitable recovery,” said Mohamud Noor (DFL-Mpls), who sponsors HF4355.

The House Workforce and Business Development Finance and Policy Committee received a walkthrough of the delete-all amendment Monday. It includes funding and policy changes to programs in the Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The committee plans to mark-up and vote on the bill Wednesday.

The bill would invest in new and existing programs for students, workers and small businesses, and provide $1 million for a marketing campaign toward business and potential workers.

An Office of New Americans would be created within the department to serve immigrants and refugees in the state and coordinate programs to integrate new Americans into the workforce. A coordinating committee would include members from Departments of Health, Education, Corrections and Public Safety, among others.

The office would receive $470,000 and there would be $1 million appropriated for employment programs targeting new American workers.

A small business low- or no-interest loan program for businesses employing 50 people or fewer would be funded with $45 million. Loans would be at least $5,000 and could be up to $35,000 for retail, $150,000 for most businesses or $600,000 for a community business.

A community business is defined as “a cooperative, an employee-owned business, or a commercial land trust that is at least 51 percent owned by individuals from targeted groups.” Examples include people who are Black, Indigenous, low-income, female or have a disability.

An emerging developer fund program would be aimed at people who have often been unable to access capital. Funded with $20 million, it would make loans to less established property developers in targeted groups.

Help for northern Minnesota is included via $7.5 million for a Canadian border counties economic relief program that would aid businesses in northern counties affected by closure of the Canadian border or the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

For small indoor businesses such as salons, restaurants, and fitness clubs that are struggling to return to normal following COVID-19, a $35 million pandemic relief grant program is sought. Grants of up to $25,000 would be awarded by lottery.

Aiming to address an estimated shortage of 95,000 child-care slots across the state, the bill includes $4 million for grants to child care startups and expansions.

The bulk of bill funding would come from the General Fund, but more than $25 million would come from the Workforce Development Fund. Of that, $20 million would go to local workforce development boards and $5 million to youth technology training.

Other specific appropriations in the omnibus bill include:

  • $2 million for the Center for Economic Inclusion for job creation strategies;
  • $2 million for the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota aimed to help equip Black women with tools needed to build generational wealth;
  • $1 million for the Coalition of Asian American Leaders to address employment and economic disparities for Asian Minnesotans; and
  • $800,000 for Enterprise MN, which offers technical assistance to manufacturing-related companies with 250 or fewer employees.

Among policy provisions, the omnibus bill would modify the pay-for-performance job training program grants to reflect quality of job placements.  

It would also allow the department to waive matching funds for main street revitalization programs located in low-income areas.


What's in the bill?

The following are selected bills that have been incorporated in part or in whole into the omnibus workforce and business development finance and policy bill:

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