The Potluck

Gov. Tim Walz urges high schoolers to apply for unemployment benefits by Dec. 25

By: - December 21, 2020 2:54 pm

Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus

Gov. Tim Walz, government officials and Minnesota teens on Monday urged high schoolers to apply for unemployment benefits before the Dec. 25 deadline if their jobs were affected by the pandemic.

High schoolers who were laid off or had their hours cut due to the pandemic were initially deemed ineligible for pandemic unemployment assistance because of a state law passed in 1939. The nonprofit Youthprise sued, and a court determined in December that students should be eligible for benefits.

“All of these young people who are working are paying taxes and being a part of the system, too, so this is the right thing to do,” Walz said.

The state has received roughly 10,000 applications from high schoolers and has sent benefits to some already, said Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove. 

Rahma Farah, 17, said she started working at age 14 to help support her single mother and three siblings. She and her mom both lost their jobs this year because of the pandemic, and Farah wasn’t able to receive unemployment benefits, so she used some of her college savings to cover her family’s expenses.

“Those first few months were extremely challenging for my family, and if I were allowed benefits at the time, it would have taken an immense amount of stress off my shoulders,” Farah said.

Walz, Grove and the students called for the repeal of the 1939 law that bars students from receiving unemployment benefits.

“That law needs to be changed — it’s outdated,” Grove said. “If you’re old enough to work, you’re old enough to get the benefits that you should get when you can’t work.”

High school students can learn more and apply for benefits at

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a former data reporter for the Minnesota Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.