The Potluck

Minn. begins distributing extra $600 a week in unemployment, among first in nation

By: - April 8, 2020 12:50 pm
steve grove

Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove in March 2020. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer.

Minnesota is among the first states in the nation to begin approving the additional $600 per week in unemployment insurance from the federal government’s $2.2 trillion economic relief package for COVID-19.

In an email to staff Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove said the department had already authorized 192,135 unemployed Minnesotans to receive the payments for a total of more than $115 million.

More than 350,000 Minnesotans — 11% of the state’s labor force — has applied for unemployment in the three weeks since March 16, a staggering figure far surpassing all the unemployment claims in 2019.

The state was able to move quickly after Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order suspending a requirement that people applying for unemployment use up their paid time off before they begin receiving money.

DEED reports they were able to process 90% of eligible applicants so far, even though it is processing more claims than it’s ever received at one time in its 85-year history.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) passed by congress last month greatly expands unemployment benefits. It provides people with an additional $600 per week for four months, meant to replace people’s entire paycheck instead of just a fraction of it.

It also extends the period people can collect the benefit to 13 weeks and for the first time provides freelancers and independent contractors the ability to collect.

The money flows from the federal government through the states, meaning how quickly people receive a check depends largely on where they live.

Many states including New York, Connecticut and Kentucky are grappling with massive backlogs, while in Florida people have been directed to mail in paper forms because the online application keeps crashing and the phone lines are jammed.

You can learn more about unemployment insurance and apply here.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.