ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- As lawmakers in Washington debate the final details of the second federal stimulus bill, there's already help available in Minnesota for a group of people who didn't previously qualify for unemployment benefits.
It's called the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and it gives student workers the opportunity to receive assistance like unemployment benefits if they were laid off from their jobs during the pandemic.
They were previously considered ineligible for this kind of help because they went to school.
"I know that for many of the folks on this call, that these paychecks aren't just about saving for college, they are about supporting your family and surviving," said Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan.
The pandemic has left many Americans, including high school students, without a job and wondering how they will provide for their families.
"The law that exists on Minnesota statutes that prevents young people from getting unemployment insurance in a regular environment was written in 1939," said Steve Grove, Dept. of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner. "This is an antiquated law if there ever was one. And you know, I think these young people on this call have proven that when you get together and organize, you can make change."
The PUA is available to people who are either not eligible for regular unemployment benefits, lost employment due to COVID-19, or meet other criteria.
"I started working at the age of 14 in order to help my single mother of four," said high school student Rahma Farah. "And when COVID hit, my family was hit very hard. Both me and my mother lost our jobs. My mother was self employed so it took her a little longer to get unemployment benefits and I didn't even qualify for benefits, so we were like left out of the loop."
"I thought to myself, why would I, a tax paying, working citizen, be treated differently and penalized for being in high school, for trying to get my education," said recent high school graduate Cole Stevens.
"We need to get the word out to these folks that they need to apply," said Gov. Tim Walz. "This group did their work. DEED is ready to go. We just need to have people apply and that clock is ticking to apply for this benefit that they've earned."
"If you're old enough to work, you're old enough to get the benefits that you should get when you can work," Grove said. "So we're going to fight for that along side all of you."
Grove continued on to say that payments are already being made to young people who have applied, which as of Monday afternoon was about 10,000.
Walz is encouraging those who qualify to apply sooner rather than later.
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