The Potluck

House approves proposal making hourly school workers eligible for unemployment benefits

By: - May 5, 2022 12:36 pm

Photo courtesy of Minnesota History Center.

The Minnesota House on Wednesday approved a proposal to make hourly school workers eligible for unemployment benefits.

The provision — included in the majority DFL House’s jobs bill — would allow bus drivers, cafeteria staff and paraprofessionals to apply for unemployment benefits during summer break.

Labor and education unions have pushed for the change for years, arguing hourly school staff should be afforded the same opportunities as construction, hospitality and landscaping workers to collect benefits during their offseasons. The GOP has criticized the proposal as too expensive, however, so it’s unlikely to advance in the Republican-controlled state Senate.

Proponents also say the policy would help schools recruit and retain workers for these hard-to-staff positions. The prospect of finding a summer job or going without pay during school breaks discourages candidates from applying.

“Today, we voted to correct this unfairness. If we provide hourly school workers with the basic economic security they deserve, these Minnesotans will be able to continue supporting our students,” said Rep. Emma Greenman, DFL-Minneapolis, who introduced the amendment to the jobs bill.

Hourly school workers were not included in legislation approved in late April awarding pandemic hazard pay to frontline workers. The House DFL dropped a proposal to make them eligible during negotiations with the GOP-controlled Senate. 

Roughly 667,000 workers will receive $750 each through the hazard pay deal. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

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.