Legislative leaders reach agreement on unemployment insurance, frontline bonuses

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Minnesota legislative leaders reached an agreement Thursday on a bill to replenish the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund and provide bonuses for frontline workers, after months of stalemate.

The Minnesota House approved the bill late Monday, however, the Senate did not initially concur with the House version until it was sent to a conference committee for additional negotiation.

RELATED: GOP, DFL leaders make little progress in replenishing unemployment insurance trust fund

The now agreed-upon bill includes $2.7 billion for unemployment insurance and $500 million for worker bonuses. There’s also $190 million included for “ongoing COVID response.”

Details on a new bonus structure are expected to be forthcoming.

“This is a good deal for Minnesotans. Stopping the unnecessary tax hikes on our small businesses and showing our appreciation for frontline workers were some of our top priorities this session,” Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) said in a statement Thursday. “I’m happy to see the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund debt completely paid off and refilled without an additional cost to businesses or workers who have already sacrificed so much.”

Meanwhile, Senate Deputy Leader Karin Housley (R- Stillwater) said in a statement, “Our people are our biggest asset, and the workers who took big risks to keep us safe during the pandemic deserve our thanks and gratitude. This bonus payment will let them know that we appreciate what they have done, and we recognize they made sacrifices when they were asked to.”

Ahead of the vote on the bill Monday night, House Speaker Melissa Hortman (D-Brooklyn Park) issued the following statement, in part: “Our highest priority is ensuring that workers who were on the front lines during COVID-19 receive the bonus pay they deserve.” 

Hortman followed up with a statement Thursday: “Our highest priority was ensuring that workers who were on the front lines of COVID receive the bonuses they were promised nearly a year ago. I’m pleased we were able to finally reach an agreement with Senate Republicans to deliver these bonus checks — at double the amount agreed to last session. As a result, 667,000 Minnesota frontline workers will be eligible for $750 bonuses. In the remaining weeks of session, House Democrats will continue working to reduce costs for families, improve economic security, and support our workers.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.