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Repealing MN's Unemployment Provisions for Seniors, Teens Still in Play

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Monday, May 10, 2021   

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Minnesota lawmakers are still being pressured to update the state's unemployment laws some have argued discriminate against teens and older workers.

A key backer of the movement, state Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, said Minnesota is the only state with an offset provision, which can reduce or prevent jobless benefits for those who collect or have signed up for Social Security.

Roger Cadogan, a Rochester resident who was denied state and federal benefits last year because he fell into that category, said it added to his stress after having to leave his part-time job over COVID-19 risks.

Cadogan emphasized the extra income was crucial to help make ends meet.

"Sometimes, things happen in life in which money that you saved up for retirement had to be used for other purposes," Cadogan explained. "And you get to retirement, and it just didn't work out."

Repeal efforts, which also include removing similar language for high-school students, have seen movement this session, but advocates are worried a Senate version would delay implementation.

Some lawmakers question how the changes might affect business owners, but groups such as AARP argued teens with jobs and older workers pay into the system, and they should be able to receive the benefits like everyone else.

Semhar Solomon, a senior at Saint Anthony Village High School, was working in retail for several months last year, but a stress-induced flu weakened her immune system, putting her and her family at risk for COVID-19.

Being rejected for unemployment complicated saving money for college and where she could apply.

"It's really unfortunate how financial stability and how much financial aid you get can be a deciding factor in where you get your education," Solomon asserted.

In the end, she was awarded a scholarship. But Solomon urged lawmakers to remove barriers, so other teens won't have to deal with that kind of stress and uncertainty.

Minnesota's Department of Employment and Economic Development did express support for updating laws after advocates for teens successfully sued the state last year regarding the issue.


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