On Monday, the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth and Finance and Policy Committee passed its $348 million budget bill, which has a key theme of business and economic recovery for all of Minnesota. Senate File 1098 focuses on economic recovery; workforce training and business development services; and addresses the shortage of childcare in many communities.
The bill, authored by Senator Eric Pratt (R- Prior Lake), provides $100 million to create a Small Business Loan Guarantee program. By guaranteeing 80% of a small business loan with state dollars, it’s expected private lenders will loan $250 million in private capital to assist businesses as they enter a period of economic recovery. Also included in the bill is $17.5 million for workforce training and business development services to ensure that Minnesota has a trained workforce. $3.2 million will address the state’s childcare shortage by helping to reduce the costs that providers are facing as the demand for services has dropped.
“This bill has one goal: helping our small businesses and workforce recover after a long year full of restrictions, shutdowns, and financial hardships,” Pratt said. “Main Street businesses have been put through the wringer and, consequentially, many will never reopen their doors again. This bill focuses on guiding and assisting businesses that have survived, as well as the workforce, through the upcoming economic recovery, and I think we were really able to hit the nail on the head.”
Notably, this legislation gives businesses the ability to operate at full capacity with a COVID-19 safety plan in place and requires that any future Executive Orders aimed at closing or partially closing businesses receive support from the majority of both the House and Senate before going into effect.
In response to last year’s massive number of reported issues with the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program, this bill also focuses on reforming and updating several UI benefits provisions. Included is the removal of a provision that automatically makes high school students ineligible for UI benefits. Many working students were unable to collect benefits during COVID-shutdowns. This change allows them to do so provided they meet the other requirements currently in law. Additionally, this legislation would also expand the types of re-employment training services that fulfill the “suitable employment” requirement for UI benefit recipients, therefore expanding options for individuals to receive benefits while simultaneously receiving workforce training services.
“This year was especially challenging for our workforce and employees, and it exposed a number of shortcomings with our current UI system. This bill updates our Unemployment Insurance provisions so working Minnesotans that find themselves unemployed during a time of crisis, notably students and seniors that had their wages taxed for the UI premium, can actually apply for and receive UI benefits.” Pratt continued. “Much of our workforce found themselves unexpectedly without jobs, and many of these people found they couldn’t cover basic expenses because of old and arcane regulations. We need to do what we can to make sure these issues do not arise again, and we also must ensure that those displaced from their places of work can get back on their feet again.”
Additionally, included in this bill is language that reforms the Wage Theft Prevention Act, specifically by clarifying the employer’s responsibilities as related to employee notice requirements. Suggested changes will dispel the confusion that surrounds current requirements, ensures that employee protections remain strong, and compensation details are communicated to the employee in a timely manner.
Other key provisions included in the legislation are:
- Expansion of workplace accommodations for pregnant and nursing mothers
- Removal of a provision that deducts 50% of a UI applicant’s social security income from their UI insurance benefit
- Modification to building code that will help decrease costs while ensuring that building safety remains a priority
- Reduction of time that an employee needs to work for an employer (from 12 to 3 months) for purposes of participating in the Shared Work Program
“This bill focuses equally on recovery for businesses and employees: we’re removing barriers to employment, we’re getting people trained today for the jobs of tomorrow, and we’re making Minnesota a viable place to invest. Coming off the heels of COVID and a massive recession, we were able to put together a bipartisan bill. I’m proud to say that this bill is 100% focused on helping Minnesotans get back to work and on the road to economic recovery,” Pratt concluded.