House jobless bill is smaller

By Patrick Howe

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- A bill passed by the House would treat workers who lose their jobs in mass layoffs differently, depending on where they work.

The bill would extend an extra 13 weeks of benefits to people who lose their jobs in cuts of 500 or more workers, if they work in counties where unemployment is above the state average.

The bill would cost about $7 million, far less than a Senate version that extends extra benefits to workers statewide. It costs about $93 million.


The sponsor of the House bill, Rep. Dan McElroy, R-Burnsville, said the state can't afford the larger bill. With eligibility tied to the state jobless rate, McElroy said workers in the metropolitan area, where unemployment is low, would not be able to get the extra benefits. But he added they're less likely to need them because of the large job pool.

But Rep. Dan Larson of Bloomington, a Democrat whose district includes airline workers who lost work after last fall's terrorist attacks, said, "It stops short of helping a lot of people who are in serious pain."

All of the state extensions would be in addition to a 13-week federal extension in place that covers most laid-off Minnesota workers. Without an extension, unemployment benefits are given for six months.

The House bill would extend the extra 13 weeks of benefits to workers recently pushed out of work at Potlatch Corp., Farmland Foods and Fingerhut Inc.

A Democratic effort to make the House bill match the Senate's in scope and funding died on a mostly party-line vote. Opponents said it would increase costs to employers who pay taxes for the benefits by more than 40 percent.

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