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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL)

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House Democrats expected to approve investments in Minnesota’s workers and struggling small businesses

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

St. Paul, MN - This evening, the Minnesota House of Representatives is expected to approve legislation made up of proposals from the House Workforce and Business Development Committee, as well as the House Labor and Industry Committee. These proposals, championed by House Democrats, deliver resources to working Minnesotans, fund training and workforce development, invest in struggling small businesses and economic corridors throughout the state, and keep workers safe on the job. 

“Our state’s economic recovery is built on the backs of working families, but too many of these Minnesotans are being left behind as the wealthy and well-connected get richer,” said Rep. Mohamud Noor (DFL - Minneapolis), chair of the House Workforce and Business Development Finance and Policy Committee. “Our proposal will invest in our workers, provide pathways to good jobs, support small businesses, and ensure our workplaces are safe.”


The legislation contains $207 million in investments aimed at promoting workforce and business development. Included in this is House DFLers’ Paid Family & Medical Leave and Earned Sick & Safe Time legislation to ensure all Minnesotans can take time to care for themselves or a loved one without risking a paycheck. With the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund replenished, the legislation also expands this safety net so Minnesota’s hourly school workers can have the same economic security as their colleagues.


“Minnesota workers are the backbone of our economy. They deserve to be safe and successful on the job, while having the ability to provide economic security for their families,” said Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL – International Falls), chair of the House Labor, Industry, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee. “With this bill, House DFLers are once again demonstrating we stand with workers who keep our state moving forward. We’re delivering solutions to protect fair pay, benefits, and safety measures – along with training and apprenticeship opportunities – so they can truly thrive in our state.”


The bill strengthens fair labor standards for agriculture and food processing workers, including updates to the Packinghouse Workers Bill of Rights, the law regulating the recruitment of food processing workers, and Minnesota’s migrant labor law. Minnesota currently has some of the lowest OSHA penalties in the country, and to conform with federal requirements, the bill increases penalties for workplace safety violations. If lawmakers don’t enact these changes, the federal government would likely take over the state OSHA program.


“All session, House DFLers have been focused on putting workers first,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “House Democrats are working to increase economic security and improve protections for workers. We’re thankful for hard working Minnesotans, and we want our state to be a place where people are compensated for the true value of their work.”


Some of the bill’s most significant investments are dedicated to supporting small businesses, including $45 million for the new Spark Revolving Loan Program, and $35 million in small business recovery grants with amounts dedicated for businesses owned by veterans, women, or people of color. When the Canadian border was closed, businesses that relied on international travel dealt with compounded difficulties, which is why $7.5 million has been appropriated to help establishments in the region. 


Funds in the bill are also appropriated for redeveloping and revitalizing business communities. The legislation invests $5 million in DEED’s Redevelopment Program, which provides grants to local units of government to help prepare blighted properties for development. The Main Street Revitalization Program would receive $20 million, building upon last year’s work of providing loans to targeted areas throughout the state, notably the Twin Cities business economic corridors still recovering from 2020.


To support economically disadvantaged communities, $25.3 million is appropriated for another round of the popular Targeted Community Capital Projects Grants, which were awarded to businesses throughout the state as part of last year’s Tax Bill. The DEED program funds projects that have otherwise not benefited from capital funds.

To provide an economic boost to workers and their families, the bill includes a two-year fee holiday for building and construction trade licenses including electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, and other building trades workers. To improve safety in two highly dangerous fields, the legislation includes new funding for a logger safety initiative, and a requirement for most oil refinery workers to have apprenticeship-level training. The bill also includes a measure to ban “no-poach” clauses that prohibit franchisees from hiring a worker who works at or used to work for another franchisee in the same chain, an anti-competitive tool that often serves to keep wages low.

In order to support new entries to the country and the workforce, the bill invests $470 thousand into the Office of New Americans at DEED, and establishes the Interdepartmental Coordinating Council on Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. This council will advise the Office of New Americans and assist in their duties to connect employers with the immigrant and refugee community, and ensure that immigrants and refugees have equitable access to state services. An additional $1 million is appropriated for new American support in anticipation of Afghan and Ukrainian refugees. 


Other significant investments in the bill include:


  • $20 million to be split among the state’s 16 workforce development boards
  • $20 million for the Emerging Developer Fund
  • $5 million in Women of Color Economic Opportunity grants
  • $5 million for Youth Tech Training
  • $4 million in Child Care grants
  • $1.758 million in prevailing wage enforcement
  • $1.375 million for the Labor Education and Advancement program, encouraging people of color and women to pursue apprenticeships
  • $1 million for the Minnesota Marketing Campaign
  • $800,000 for Enterprise Minnesota
  • $747,000 for Youth Skills Training

Video of today’s floor session will be available on House Public Information Services’ YouTube channel.