|Senate committees to hear unemployment extension bill|
On Monday, Jan. 12, two Senate committees are scheduled to hear a proposal that would extend additional unemployment benefits to 3,000 Minnesotans who have exhausted their regular benefits, but are currently disqualified from federal extensions.
“In response to the nation’s economic crisis, the federal government has recently passed two unemployment insurance extension bills for workers who are unable to find suitable work before their benefits run out,” said Sen. Jim Metzen, DFL – South St. Paul, who is chief author of the legislation and chair of the Business, Industry and Jobs Committee. “Unfortunately, federal rules are denying thousands of Minnesotans who would benefit from the extension, but don’t meet specific guidelines passed by Congress. Our plan would extend these additional benefits to all Minnesotans, and help ensure that the families impacted by our current recession are receiving the help they need.”
The federal Unemployment Insurance (UI) extensions provide up to 33 additional weeks of UI coverage to Minnesotans who have exhausted their normal benefits. However, because federal law contains a special requirement that an applicant must have earned a certain amount of wages in their “base period” (the time frame used to determine an applicant’s benefits), about 10 percent of Minnesotans who have exhausted their UI benefits do not qualify for the federally funded extension. The Senate’s proposal would provide a state-funded extension to that group, payable in the same amount and duration as the federal extension.
Early estimates from the Department of Employment and Economic Development indicate the plan would provide extended unemployment benefits to 3,000 Minnesotans the first week after adoption, with an additional 150 workers added per week. The Legislature passed a similar measure in 2002, the last time Congress passed a federal extension to unemployment insurance benefits.
The bill will start in the Business, Industry and Jobs Committee and, if approved by committee members, will receive a hearing in the Senate’s Economic Development Finance Committee later Monday afternoon. According to Sen. Metzen, the importance of getting unemployment benefits to laid-off workers motivated lawmakers to expedite passage of the legislation early in the 2009 session.
“It’s important that we advance this plan as quickly as possible,” Sen. Metzen said. “The recent rise in unemployment is causing a tremendous amount of pain for Minnesota families and we need to make sure that we have this important safety net in place.”
Assuming the bill is passed by both panels on Monday, it could be heard in the Senate’s Finance Committee later next week.
For more information, contact Sen. Metzen’s State Capitol office at (651) 296-4370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.