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Legislative Update: April 20, 2020

Posted By EDAM Staff, Monday, April 20, 2020

Last week marked the return to a more normal legislative schedule after an extended recess. Committees in both the House and Senate held remote hearings on both COVID response legislation as well as a limited number of non-COVID related bills. The bipartisan cooperation we have seen over the past month continues, but frays are starting to show. Senate Republicans, in particular, have started to move toward a message of “reopening Minnesota,” a theme during House and Senate Jobs Committee hearings last week.

 

The Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has been the on the frontlines of the economic fallout facing Minnesota’s businesses and employees as unemployment numbers continue to rise. DEED officials made appearances in both House and Senate Jobs committees last week to discuss the agency’s work during the peacetime emergency.

 

DEED Commissioner Grove appeared in front of the Senate Committee on Jobs and Economic Growth on Wednesday to discuss the unemployment situation and take questions from Senators. He discussed the unemployment data the state has (450,000 unemployment insurance claims), what DEED expects to see in the coming weeks (more of the same), and responded to numerous questions about how best to begin the process of reopening businesses currently unable to operate. Members had praise for the job DEED has been doing under difficult circumstances but wanted more guidance and certainty around the reopening of shuttered businesses.

 

On Thursday DEED officials testified in the House Jobs and Economic Development Finance Division on what kinds of workforce development issues may be facing the state when we do try to rebuild the economy after the pandemic. Officials discussed a shortage of funding in the state’s Dislocated Worker Program and highlighted DEED’s shift to online initiatives such as online group trainings and virtual career fairs. A great deal of uncertainty remains, including how many workers will have a job to return to after the peacetime emergency ends.

 

The DEED focus continues this week, Monday the Senate Jobs committee had an informational hearing on S.F. 4480, a newly introduced bill from Senator Matthews that requires DEED to respond to a business’s reopening plans within 3 days of submission to DEED. There was some pushback from Democrats on the committee about the 3-day turnaround requirement and how difficult that will be for DEED. The bill does not yet have a House companion. We will continue to monitor this issue and all legislative activity as legislators try to close out session by the constitutionally mandated adjournment date of May 18.

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