State begins issuing payments to unemployed teens

A sign with masks taped onto it.
A sign in the hallway of Hastings High School reminds students to stay positive in Hastings, Minn., on Sept. 1.
Evan Frost | MPR News file

State officials say they are starting to make payments to teenagers who lost jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development is making the payments to student workers who qualify for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program — or PUA.

“We are moving as quickly as possible to issue those retroactive PUA payments and encourage any high school student whose job has been impacted by COVID-19 to apply at, immediately,” said Steve Grove, the state's employment and economic development commissioner.

High school workers were deemed eligible for the assistance through a recent Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling. The employment and economic development department was waiting for clarity from the court.

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Marcus Pope, vice president of the nonprofit group Youthprise, said up to 30,000 students could benefit. Pope said the lawsuit brought by his organization was a matter of fairness.

“It’s important for young people to receive the same benefits as other workers,” Pope said. “Employers pay into the unemployment system on behalf of young employees just as they do for another workers, and they deserve unemployment benefits.”

Pope credited the support of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison for the legal victory. He says up to 30,000 high school workers could receive the benefits if they apply quickly.

Pope said his organization is trying to get the word out and encourage high school students to apply for the unemployment benefits by a Dec. 26 deadline.

“We have billboards going up beginning Sunday,” he said. We’re doing a lot of work on social media to spread the word.”