Unemployment benefits restored for hundreds of Northshore miners

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 6:48 PM CST
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SILVER BAY, MN -- Governor Tim Walz signed a bill Wednesday restoring unemployment benefits for 410 laid-off Northshore Mining workers.

Miners at the Cleveland-Cliffs facilities in Babbitt and Silver Bay were laid off in May when the mines idled.

Unemployment benefits ended for those miners ended in November, leaving many without financial help.

The newly passed law extends those benefits by 26 weeks, retroactive to November.

“We made it 26 weeks because we know that Cleveland Cliffs has indicated that April is the possible date for reopening and that 26 weeks, we get most of our workers to that point,” said Sen. Grant Hauschild (DFL - Hermantown) who authored the bill in the State Senate.

The legislation is one of the first laws to pass under the current legislative session.

“If you had told me as a new senator, that the second bill, we would pass as a legislature would be a bill that I authored, I would have been pretty surprised,” said Hauschild, “But I also think that shows sort of the need that we have to provide relief for our workers in our region.”

Fellow DFL Rep. Dave Lislegard authored the State House’s version of the bill.

The bill passed through the House Tuesday, just seven votes short of being unanimous.

Every lawmaker in Northeast Minnesota voted in favor of the bill, which passed with bipartisan support.

“We want those folks to know that we care, we want them to stay in our in our communities. We want them to live their life,” said Rep. Roger Skraba (R - Ely), who helped co-author the bill.

Skraba represents both Babbitt and Silver Bay, the communities most impacted by those lay-offs.

“My plea on the floor is that they want to work. They don’t want to collect unemployment, they really want to work,” said Skraba.

The benefits will pull from a state unemployment trust of over a billion dollars.

The money set aside for the workers represents .006% of that fund, according to Hauschild.

Cleveland-Cliffs last indicated the mines will re-open in April.