“Today is for the workers.”
That’s what Rep. Dave Lislegard (DFL-Aurora) said on the House Floor Monday about the bill he sponsors that would extend unemployment benefits to some laid off Iron Range workers.
Through no fault of their own, nearly 500 iron ore miners were laid off in November and need help to get them through until summer when their jobs are expected to return to northern Minnesota, he said.
By a vote of 127-7, the House passed HF27/SF40*, to authorize up to 26 weeks of additional unemployment insurance benefits for recently laid off mine employees.
The Senate passed the bill 56-10 Jan. 12, so it now goes to Gov. Tim Walz.
Lislegard said the bill would benefit about 490 miners laid off from Cleveland-Cliffs/Northshore Mining and about five employees from Dyno Nobel, a mining explosives company.
The layoffs are only projected to be temporary, so this extra bit of help could keep miners from leaving the Iron Range to seek other work, Lislegard said.
To be eligible, a laid off worker’s existing unemployment insurance benefits would first need to be exhausted.
There would be no cost to the General Fund, Lislegard said, and the proposed additional unemployment benefits would be used to compute the future unemployment tax rate of Cleveland-Cliffs/Northshore Mining.
Lislegard praised the bipartisan support for the bill.
“It’s not about Democrat or Republican, it’s about helping people,” he said.
A newly elected Republican from Ely emphasized how critical this extra financial support would be.
Iron Rangers want to work, said Rep. Roger Skraba (R-Ely), and are anxious to return to the mines when they reopen.
“While they wait, they need our support,” he said.