Jobless benefits for miners extended

Gov. Mark Dayton signs the unemployment benefits extension bill for laid-off Iron Range miners on March 24, 2016, with DFL state and Iron Range lawmakers in attendance.

Gov. Mark Dayton signs the unemployment benefits extension bill for laid-off Iron Range miners on March 24, 2016, with several state and Iron Range DFL lawmakers in attendance. (PHOTO: Governor’s Office)

On Thursday the Minnesota House of Representatives passed an unemployment benefits extension for workers affected by the downturn in the Iron Range mining industry. They also passed separately what House GOP leaders wanted attached in one bill: a rebate to businesses who pay into the unemployment fund, which now has a surplus because of the state’s relatively strong economy.

On Thursday, Gov. Mark Dayton signed both bills separately.

This was a long, convoluted process by which both parties accused each other of not caring about displaced workers but ultimately did the thing they were probably capable of doing a long time ago.

Said Gov. Dayton:

“I am very pleased to finally sign into law today the bill, which provides 26 weeks of additional benefits to unemployed workers on the Iron Range. I salute the Senate Majority Leader, Tom Bakk, for his heroic efforts to pass this legislation. And I thank all of the Range legislators for their hard work to bring these urgently needed benefits to their constituents. I know they share my frustration that it took so long to accomplish.

“I support the reduction in unemployment taxes for Minnesota’s businesses, provided in the other bill I have signed today, although I disagree with the tactics used to pass it. Nevertheless, I thank Speaker Daudt for resolving with Senator Bakk this legislative impasse. I hope today’s results will show the way to the resolution of future legislative differences.”

The Iron Range House delegation, which includes Reps. Tom Anzelc (DFL-Balsam Township), Rob Eckland (DFL-International Falls), Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing), and Jason Metsa (DFL-Virginia), issued one of the shortest statements I’ve ever seen:

“It’s about time.”

You’ll note it took a lot longer to set up that quote than to share the quote itself.

In the end, eligible Iron Range workers may receive retroactive unemployment compensation as soon as next week. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) issued this statement:

With passage in the Minnesota Senate and Minnesota House of Representatives, Governor Mark Dayton signed the legislation for Minnesota’s unemployment benefits to be extended for mining workers who have been laid off after March 1, 2015 as a result of mine closures in northern Minnesota and whose regular benefits have expired.

DEED’s unemployment insurance office will be contacting all affected workers by early next week. In the meantime, impacted mining workers can visit the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance website at to follow the applicant procedure. The first benefit payments will be sent to workers next week.

The cost of the extended unemployment provision will be about $25 million from the state unemployment fund.

Minnesota businesses will receive about $253 million in tax cuts.


  1. I wonder what Minnesota businesses are going to do with all that money in tax cuts? Better pay and benefits for their workers? Hire more employees? Line their pockets?

  2. Why don’t we just set up our own unemployment system up for mining / mining related / vendor unemployment? That way, we wouldn’t have to go begging the legislature every-time an extension of benefits is needed. In addition, the system could be set-up in a way that offered tiered benefits. Maybe something like 40% for people who wanted to collect unemployment and would be OK in staying home and 80% for people who would be willing to do some type of work for our towns. God knows there’s a lot of demolition / building / upkeep that could be done in our communities, and a lot of the people on unemployment have skills and work knowledge that could be put to work in times the mines are down.

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