Northern Minnesota has both an abundance of natural beauty and of natural resources, including minerals in the Iron Range.
But the region is hurting due to recent mine shutdowns, says Rep. Dave Lislegard (DFL-Aurora).
“The mining industry is the core industry of where I come from,” he told the House Workforce Development Finance and Policy Committee Wednesday. “There are a lot of ups and downs in this industry, and when there are downs, it’s extremely detrimental to the region as a whole.”
Lislegard sponsors HF27, which would authorize up to 26 weeks of additional unemployment insurance benefits for recently laid off mine employees. As modified by a delete-all amendment, the bill was approved on a voice vote and sent to the House Ways and Means Committee. It would apply retroactively to Aug. 14, 2022.
Lislegard said the bill would benefit about 490 iron ore miners laid off from Cleveland-Cliffs/Northshore Mining and about five employees from Dyno Nobel, a mining explosives company.
To be eligible, a laid off worker’s existing unemployment insurance benefits would first need to be exhausted.
John Arbogast, staff representative of the United Steelworkers District 11 office, said the bill would help prevent mine workers from moving out of the region and provide financial support until a projected restart of several mines later this year.
“If we can stop the bleeding with this unemployment extension, then there’s a little hope,” he said. “You know you can pay your mortgage and your bills.”
Rep. Dave Baker (R-Willmar) said it’s good policy for the state to prevent people from uprooting themselves and their families in search of better economic opportunities, especially when that relocation is likely only temporary.
“I am happy to support this today,” he said. “We’ve got to get our folks in northern Minnesota back to work.”