Focus on New Laws: Unemployment Eligibility for High School Students

October 4, 2021

High school students now qualify for unemployment insurance benefits if they otherwise meet eligibility requirements.

First Special Session Chapter 10, the omnibus jobs bill, contains a provision that allows high school students to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits if they otherwise meet eligibility requirements.

The new law amends Minnesota Statutes, section 268.085, subdivision 2 to repeal the provision in current law that makes secondary students ineligible for unemployment benefits. This change is effective on July 3, 2022. 

The change was in response to a coalition of young people across the Twin Cities who advocated to the Legislature to receive unemployment benefits granted to other workers in the state.

Courts lead the way

Last February, the Minnesota Court of Appeals determined that high school students are eligible for pandemic unemployment assistance under the CARES Act. Prior to this court decision, high school students were barred from receiving unemployment insurance.

The new law comes on the heels of this court order that determined high school students were eligible for pandemic unemployment assistance.

In December 2020, the Minnesota Court of Appeals issued an expedited ruling for the nonprofit Youthprise, reversing an unemployment law judge who had previously found that high school students laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic were ineligible to receive pandemic unemployment assistance.

The timeline for benefits were to cover the weeks of Jan. 27, 2020, through December 2020. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 students would be eligible for the benefits and has since paid out more than $30 million in jobless payments to high school students.

Impact to cities

Beginning July 2022, high school students employed by cities will qualify for unemployment insurance benefits, so long as they otherwise meet unemployment requirements.

High school students who were initially denied unemployment insurance earlier in 2020, had their claims reviewed by DEED in December 2020 and eligible claimants could receive both retrospective and prospective adjustments as applicable, for up to 39 weeks of benefits for 2020.

Cities with seasonal part-time workers who are high school students, such as parks and recreation employees, may see a financial impact from the Minnesota Court of Appeals decision as well as this new law.

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