U.S. Sen. Tina Smith & Rep. Angie Craig Introduce Legislation to Help High School Students in Minnesota Who Lost Jobs Due to COVID-19

WASHINGTON, D.C. [08/7/20]—This week U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and U.S. Representative Angie Craig (MN-2) were joined by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Reps. Dean Phillips (MN-3), Ilhan Omar (MN-5) and Betty McCollum (MN-4) as they introduced bicameral legislation to help high school students in Minnesota who have lost jobs due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

The lawmakers said that many high school students have jobs to cover basic expenses for themselves and their families like food, utilities and rent. Students also work to save money for future costs such as college. But the pandemic and its related economic downfall have put many high school students out of work, leaving them worried about making ends meet. While high school students in most states have been able to receive unemployment compensation when they’ve lost jobs, Minnesota high school students’ unemployment claims have been denied, even though the CARES Act, which was passed by Congress in March, included provisions intended to allow students to receive unemployment compensation.

The bill, The High School Student Unemployment Eligibility Clarification Act, would clarify language in the next round of COVID-19 relief to overcome the conflicts with state law and help make high school students eligible for unemployment compensation if they meet the other unemployment rules applicable to adults.

“Many high school students work during the school year—and especially the summer—to pay for everyday basic expenses or save for the future,” said Sen. Smith. “Unfortunately, the pandemic has put many of them out of work, leaving them short on cash during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. I’m pressing to help Minnesota high school students receive unemployment insurance during the pandemic because high school workers need relief now.”

“I am proud to work with Sen. Smith and my fellow Minnesota colleagues to correct a problematic disparity for the state’s high school students who are unemployed and would otherwise qualify for unemployment insurance at a time when access to every available resource is crucial,” said Rep. Craig. “Right now, as all of our local economies are impacted by COVID-19 we’ve got to make sure hardworking families, including their children, are supported.” 

“The coronavirus pandemic has created an economic crisis across Minnesota and the nation,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “High school students have been particularly affected since so many students are no longer able to return to seasonal jobs. This legislation will make it clear that students have access to the full range of federal unemployment insurance benefits. I will continue working to ensure that all Minnesotans have access to much needed relief during the pandemic.”

 “I’m on a mission to get Minnesota families through this pandemic as healthy, economically sound, and prepared for the future as possible,” said Rep. Phillips. “Our students – especially those who depend on jobs to support their aspirations – are facing unimaginable uncertainty. Their goals matter, their work matters, and their financial security matters. As the COVID-19 crisis continues, I’m joining my Minnesota colleagues in support of working students and their families today so that they can thrive tomorrow.”

 “I know what it’s like to work during high school in order to support your family. And I know how important that income is for families across the 5th District and Minnesota,” said Rep. Omar. “Young people have been hit extremely hard by this crisis.  And we have a responsibility to make sure they get the unemployment insurance they need, just like everybody else. I’m proud to work with my Minnesota colleagues to make that happen.”

 “High school students who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own should be eligible for unemployment assistance to help weather the storm of this pandemic,” said Rep. McCollum. “Many young people contribute to their families’ economic wellbeing, and this will ensure they have access to benefits at a time when they’re needed most.”  

 “States like Minnesota continuing to block access or deny unemployment insurance to young employees is inequitable. That the youngest workers are ineligible for unemployment benefits, strictly by virtue of being high school students is an important equity issue in our time. Our country’s’ and Minnesota’s young workers are the lowest paid and represent our most racially and ethnically diverse cohort of workers ever. How we are treating them shows a real disconnect between decision makers and the lived experience of this essential group of our workforce and community.” — Wokie Weah, President, Youthprise

“Being eligible for unemployment benefits would help many students who are struggling at the moment and who lost their jobs due to Covid-19. A lot of students can’t control if they get to go to work or not. This virus came out of nowhere and so far the government and the state hasn’t help us (young people.) Young people don’t just use jobs for “pocket change,” I know a lot of young people who need to support their family’s living expenses or they live on their own and still have to finish high school. I know a lot of situations where students pay important bills. Helping young people will help the whole community in a big way.” —Walter Cortina, Young Bridge Makers Leader, Age 17

The High School Student Unemployment Eligibility Clarification Act is supported by Bridgemakers, Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board, Center for School Change, Minnesota Alliance With Youth, Centro Tyrone Guzman, Minnesota Parent Union, Change Inc. Minnesota Youth Council, Children’s Defense Fund, National Youth Leadership Council, Coalition of Asian American Leaders, Northfield Healthy Community Initiative, Community Integration Center (CIC), Pillsbury United Communities, Courageous heARTS, Somali American Social Service Association, Early College Academy Brooklyn Center Community Schools, Sundance Family Foundation, East Side Neighborhood Services, Twin Cities Changemakers, FamilyWise, We IMPACT!, Great Expectations, West Central Initiative, High School for Recording Arts, Women’s March Minnesota, IMPACT LIVING Christian Center, World Savvy, Ka Joog, Youthprise, LISC Twin Cities

You can access bill text here.