The Minnesota House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division met on Tuesday, August 10 to hear from unemployed workers about problems and barriers they face while using the unemployment insurance system. DEED Commissioner Dan McElroy also gave an update on the stimulus money received from the federal government that is being put into workforce development and upgrades.
United Steelworker Jack Thronson, President of Local 2660 cited the problems that many workers face while trying to access their unemployment benefits because they are forced to take vacationary leave. It was his first opportunity testifying in front of lawmakers. He told the committee members that members from his local get frustrated at the Workforce Centers from delays when they call and from the internet. Sometimes these delays cause workers not to receive their unemployment benefits for four to six weeks. Working families should not have to wait that long for benefits.
Labor's voice at the hearing included Brad Lehto, Chief of Staff at the MN AFL-CIO and Harry Melander, President of Minnesota Building and Construction Trades. Harry told committee members, "Our members are using UI more than ever in the past couple of decades. There are people who have fallen off the radar screen after exhausting their (UI) benefits. If there is anything this committee can do to restore this, it is greatly appreciated." He also explained that any jobs bills or mechanism to create jobs in the next session is key.
MPR's Tim Pugmire also featured this hearing as a news item today and you can read about it here.