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Workforce panel advances omnibus bill that sponsor says will ‘prepare our workforce for the future’

Before the House Workforce Development Finance and Policy Committee approved its omnibus bill Friday and sent it to its next stop, Rep. Jay Xiong (DFL-St. Paul), the bill sponsor, gave his thoughts on creating the bill and what he hopes it will accomplish.

“I do want to thank the communities from all across our state who were here to share their stories, to tell us what their needs are,” he said. “This bill that we crafted together I hope really reflects those needs, and that this bill is a solution to address the shortages out there and to prepare our workforce for the future.”

The committee, which Xiong chairs, adopted three amendments to the delete-all amendment to HF2233, then approved it on a voice vote and referred it to the House Ways and Means Committee.

The $362.34 million spending bill — $331.56 million from the General Fund — would fund the Department of Employment and Economic Development for the 2024-25 biennium for its grant programs to train workers, make loans to entrepreneurs or businesses, and even subsidize car loans to help low-income people get to work.

More than 75 organizations or programs are slated to get $204.79 million of the $362.34 million of the total appropriations.

[MORE: Read about the bill; View the spreadsheet]

The bill was first heard Wednesday, where the committee received a walkthrough of the bill’s financial components and policy provisions.

At Friday’s meeting, the committee considered amendments and heard a presentation from DEED on portions of the governor’s workforce bill that are included in the omnibus bill, but had not been heard by the committee.

Before the bill got its send off, the committee adopted three amendments that would:

  • direct the department to develop a timeline for reducing the 40% fine and eliminating the 12% interest rate it charges people who mistakenly obtain unemployment benefit overpayments;
  • appropriate $700,000 in fiscal year 2024 to the Southwest Initiative Foundation to start a pilot program to connect college students with employers in southwest Minnesota; and
  • direct the department to identify barriers that adults with mental illness face in obtaining and retaining employment and recommend strategies to address those barriers.

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