ST. PAUL, Minnesota. April 29, 2022 — The Minnesota Legislature on Friday approved bills to give frontline workers one-time payments for their work during the pandemic and billions of dollars in tax relief to businesses by replenishing the unemployment insurance trust fund.
The legislation, though, excludes an important safety net for hourly school workers. Senate Republicans refused to fix a decades-old law that excludes hourly school workers from accessing unemployment insurance if needed during the summer.
The deal includes $500 million to provide $750 checks for essential workers such as school staff, health care workers, child care providers and retail employees for their in-person work during the pandemic, and more than five times that amount — $2.7 billion – in tax relief for businesses for unemployment insurance. The unemployment insurance fix for hourly school workers would only cost $160 million.
“The one-time payment to frontline workers, while long overdue, is a small step toward recognizing the sacrifices these essential employees made to keep our state running during a global pandemic,” said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota. “It is disgraceful that Senate Republicans couldn’t wait to dole out billions of dollars in tax breaks to businesses, yet refused to give our lowest-paid workers who make our schools work a safety net if they can’t find employment during the summer months.”
“Speaker Hortman and the DFL forced Republicans to double the frontline worker checks. Our members served their communities at great risk to themselves and their families and this long-overdue recognition is welcome,” said Kelly Gibbons, executive director of SEIU Local 284. “But summer is coming fast. Without a legislative fix of unemployment insurance, we’re going to lose even more staff. The staffing shortages are bad for kids and the public should know that the crisis we will experience next fall will be on the hands of the elected officials who failed to act.“
Private subcontractors who do the exact same work many hourly workers perform are eligible for unemployment in the summer while school employees who work with them are excluded.
Other workers with predictable, seasonal employment, like resort employees and landscapers, are eligible for unemployment. SEIU Local 284 and Education Minnesota think it’s only fair for our school workers to be eligible too.