State Senate passes bill extending unemployment benefits for laid off mining workers

Cleveland Cliffs Northshore Mine
Cleveland Cliffs Northshore Mine(Northern News Now)
Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 3:54 PM CST
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THURSDAY UPDATE-- Minnesota State Senators passed a bill Thursday that would extend unemployment benefits for hundreds of laid off mining workers on the Iron Range.

According to the MN Senate Twitter account, the bill, authored by DFL’ers Sen. Grant Hauschild, of Hermantown, and Rep. Dave Lislegard, passed 56-10.

However, senators denied an amendment to change the date of unemployment eligibility from January to September, proposed by republican Sen. Eric Pratt, did not pass.

It still needs approval from the Minnesota House before it would head to the Governor’s desk for a signature.

This would offer an additional 26 weeks of benefits for over 400 workers who were laid off when Cliffs idled its Northshore Mining facilities in spring 2022.

Cliffs spokespeople have said they do not expect their facilities to come back online until later in 2023.

DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - Wednesday, a bill to extend unemployment insurance for laid off mining workers received committee approval.

Minnesota House Workforce Development Finance and Policy Committee unanimously approved legislation to extend Unemployment Insurance benefits for about 420 workers who lost their jobs due to the idling of Northshore Mining facilities in Babbitt and Silver Bay.

The benefits expired at the end of November 2022.

The bill was authored by Rep. Dave Lislegard, a DFL’er who represents District 7B in northeastern Minnesota. Sen. Grant Hauschild, a DFL’er from Hermantown, has also pushed for the bill.

This would offer an additional 26 weeks of benefits for over 400 workers who were either laid off by Northshore Mining or associated businesses offering goods and services to Northshore, namely in the explosive manufacturing industry.

“Iron ore mining remains the driving force of the Iron Range economy, offering hard-working men and women an opportunity to provide economic wherewithal for their families. It’s also an industry with ups and downs, and when there are downs, they are very detrimental not just to the workers but to the entire region,” Rep. Lislegard said. “A family losing their main source of income right before the holidays and when they need to keep their home heated is adversity I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Minnesotans care about each other, and I’m pleased we’re working together in a bipartisan fashion to help these workers and their families navigate the current hardship they’re facing.”

Last May, Cleveland Cliffs announced operations at Northshore Mining would temporarily shut down.

This affected a mine in Babbitt and a pellet plant in Silver Bay.

Cliffs then announced last July that Northshore will remain idle through at least this April.

Due to this, many workers exhausted their regular benefits in November.

The benefit extension in the bill would be offered retroactively to August 14.

The bill now goes to the Committee on Ways and Means.