A $3 million grant will aid Minnesota workers affected by floods in the area. The U.S. Department of Labor announced the initial release of $1 million to create some 300 temporary jobs to aid in cleanup and recovery efforts following the summer’s flash floods.
“This $3 million grant will create nearly 300 temporary jobs for Minnesotans to help in the cleanup and reconstruction of their communities due to the recent flash flooding,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. “In addition, these funds may also be for job training for workers who have lost jobs due to the flash floods and need new job opportunities.”
Heavy rains began in the area on August 19 and 20. As the waters rushed downstream in the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, a number of areas were affected. On August 23, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared that Fillmore, Houston and Winona Counties in Minnesota were eligible for FEMA’s Public Assistance program. That’s because heavy rains caused flash floods in those areas. On August 24, FEMA amended the declaration, and added three additional Minnesota counties: Olmstead, Steele and Wabasha. All of the counties mentioned are in the southeast corner of the state, near the Wisconsin border.
The grant is awarded to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. It will be used to create temporary jobs to assist in projects related to cleanup. These jobs include demolition, repair, and renovation. Reconstruction of structures and areas affected by flooding will also be included.
Workers eligible to apply for the temporary jobs include those dislocated as a result of the floods, other dislocated workers, and the long-term unemployed in the areas afflicted.
Following the completion of temporary employment projects, funds may also be used to provide retraining services to workers who are unable to return to work as a result of the damage caused by the flooding.
This is a Disaster Relief grant under the National Emergency Grants program.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, National Emergency Grants (NEGs) are discretionary awards by the Secretary of Labor. The grants temporarily expand service capacity at the state and local levels through time-limited funding assistance in response to “significant dislocation events.” When a layoff, plant closing or other event creates a need beyond what the state can reasonably be expected to meet, the state may apply for an Emergency Grant. In order for a state to qualify, any discretionary funds available at the state level must be included in the state’s resources.
National Emergency Grants are awarded by the U.S. Secretary of Labor for different purposes. Disaster grants benefit areas afflicted by floods, wildfires, blizzards, hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters. Other grants include Trade-WIA Dual Enrollment grants and Trade-Health Coverage Infrastructure grants.
Regular NEG grants may be available when a single or multiple company layoff affects 50 or more workers. NEG grants are also appropriate when layoffs are industry-wide within a region, or when small or rural communities are severely affected by layoffs of fewer than 50 people.
Trade-WIA Dual Enrollment grants are available for single or multiple-company projects that include layoffs of 50 workers or more. These grants are given only in areas where the U.S. Department of Labor determines that workers are affected by federal trade policies.
Trade-Health Coverage Infrastructure grants provide states with funds to help workers eligible for TAA (Trade Adjustment Assistance) or TRA (Trade Realignment Assistance) keep their healthcare insurance.
A number of resources are available to inform the state and local employment agencies of the policies that govern grant awards. Communities are urged to initiate the grant process early, to ensure that funds are available when needed.
Minnesota officials make it pretty plain: All companies or organizations that have workers doing services for them in Minnesota will have to held to the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Law. No ifs, ands, or buts (at least not many of them).
That means if you have employees of any shape, size, or form in your offices, warehouses, or work sites in Minnesota, you ought to be registered with the Unemployment Insurance Employer Account system. The system runs through the Minnesota Department of Revenue, which withholds tax from employers, and through the Minnesota Secretary of State.
To register with this system, new employers in the state have to sign up with the Unemployment Insurance Employer Accounts Office. You have 10 days to do so from the first time that you pay wages to a worker in your company. However, new employers should not register before they pay these wages. In other words, the state of Minnesota’s Unemployment Insurance Employer Accounts Office is pretty strict with its 10 day window for your registration.
All of this registration for new employers can be done online at the Web site of the Unemployment Insurance Employer Accounts Office. Or you can register the old fashioned way, through the telephone. But again, the Unemployment Insurance Employer Accounts Office can be pretty strict here too—it requests that you only use the phone registration system if you do not have any access to the Internet.
Once you register, though, your job as a new employer in the state of Minnesota is over, right? Wrong. As with most states out there, Minnesota expects and hopes for certain things out of its employers when it comes to maintaining the unemployment insurance system. One of those things is complete record collection. That means keeping up to date and accurate personnel records, filing all exit interview forms, employee separation forms, and all other documents that keep track of your employees’ comings and goings.
Each employer’s account will pay a specific weekly and maximum amount of benefits. How are those amounts determined? What types of income affect the actual payments? Have employees heard about the “waiting week”? Do employees know that there may be child support or overpayment deductions? How can arrangements for income tax withholding or direct deposit be made? Answers can be found by consulting Minnesota Unemployment Insurance posters.
Whenever employees work for an employer (full time, part time or temporary) or in self-employment, employees must report those gross earnings when they request unemployment insurance benefits. Earnings include wages, tips, salary, commission, payment in cash, rent credit, goods, services or work to repay a debt. Claimants must report such earnings in the week employees performed the work, whether or not the employees have been paid. Minnesota Unemployment Insurance posters explain how these earnings affect the benefit amount. As an employee, it is wise to keep your own records of all gross earnings in case a discrepancy arises.
If the claimant’s total gross earnings are equal to or greater than the claimant’s weekly benefit amount for any week you request benefits, no unemployment benefits are paid for that week. If the claimant’s total gross earnings are less than the claimant’s weekly benefit amount for any week benefits are requested, and the claimant’s earnings are $200 or less, those earnings in excess of $50 are deducted from the claimant’s weekly benefit amount. If the claimant’s total gross earnings are less than the claimant’s weekly benefit amount for any week they request benefits, and the claimant’s earnings are more than $200, those earnings in excess of 25 % are deducted from the claimant’s weekly benefit amount. Claimants are not eligible for unemployment benefits if they work for an employer or in self-employment 32 hours or more in a week even if gross weekly earnings are less than their weekly benefit amount.
Minnesota Unemployment Insurance posters provide additional information when claimants are self-employed. Some business expenses during a week which are directly related and unique to the self-employment must be subtracted from your gross income. For example, income from farming would have direct costs such as seed, fertilizer, herbicides, and gasoline subtracted. Those expenses subtracted for income tax purposes are not necessarily subtracted for unemployment insurance program purposes.
If you have ever thought about the possibility of being out of work, I feel sure you need to learn about Minnesota’s Unemployment Insurance. That’s the program designed to provide temporary financial assistance to unemployed workers. In 2003, there were over 227,000 workers who were unemployed in Minnesota, with the majority between age 30 and 50.
The system is currently being redesigned so that unemployment claims are processed more efficiently. After the changes, claims that are filed will be processed more quickly both from inside the state’s Employment and Economic Development Department and on the Internet self-service site. Any policy changes or legislative decisions will be instantly implemented into the system instead of waiting until the end of the quarter, or even the end of the year. I am sure that will be a relief to unemployed people who will be able to use the automated claims service with greater ease.
I am sure that you already know to have basic information at hand when you’re ready to file a claim. You will need the name and address of your last employer, the dates of your employment over the last 18 months, why your last job ended and your social security number. You’re eligible for benefits if you made enough wages over the past calendar year, and if you lost your employment through no fault of your own.
Benefits are not paid out automatically, so every two weeks you have to request benefits again. During this time, you must be available and able to work, with no illness or injury that prevents you from work. The state also requires that you be actively seeking employment. That means you will be sending out resumes or going on job interviews, visiting workshops, job clubs, and employers. If you’re a union member, you should keep your union membership in good standing.
The Minnesota Complete Labor Law poster is available with all of the current state laws regarding unemployment insurance. It will detail information regarding all state, federal, and OSHA laws.