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With an employees market; Willmar legislator aims to get Minnesotans back to work

On May 15, State Representative Dave Baker, R-Willmar, introduced HF 2648 in an attempt to bring employees back into the market with $2,000 bonuses after 90 days.

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A hiring sign is found along Country Road 5 in Willmar. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR As Minnesota begins dropping the restrictions put in place during the pandemic, businesses will begin returning to full capacity and employers are finding themselves in a bidding war, competing for a commodity essential to every business in the state: employees.

In an attempt to bring employees back to the market, State Representative Dave Baker, R-Willmar, introduced House File 2648 to incentivize unemployed workers to rejoin the workforce.

Proposed on May 15, the bill calls to establish a grant that will have the Department of Employment and Economic Development distribute funds “in the amount of $2,000 per person” to anyone that has an established unemployment insurance benefit account and returns to employment for at least 90 days.

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State Rep. Dave Baker Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo

“[Minnesota] can't wait this thing out because employers are desperate for workers,” said Baker, local business owner. “We have to incentivize people to get to work sooner and the federal government is incentivizing them to stay home longer.”

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Baker said that HF 2648 would not take away from individual CARES Act funding that increased the unemployment insurance during the pandemic, as the grant money would be paid by DEED with federal funds.

DEED’s Regional Analysis and Outreach Manager Cameron Macht agreed that the additional funds could be keeping some unemployed workers from re-entering the workforce, he believes it is one of the multiple factors that keep people from going back to work.

“We've also had a lot of issues with childcare and that's made it harder for some of those people to be able to get back into the labor force,” said Macht. “Childcare shortages are not a new issue; it's something that's been cropping up in rural areas for quite some time.”

At Employment Plus , a job recruitment and training service in Willmar, General Manager Becky Huber said they currently have around 40 open positions they are working to fill. The number of jobs remains about the same, though it takes more time and effort for them to fill the open positions now.

“It's a bidding war out there, between the companies to get people in the door,” said Huber. “We found that the companies we were working with are increasing their starting wages, to try to entice people to work for them.”

The need for employees has started driving companies to change how they go about recruiting. As that need grows, companies are offering more and more benefits, along with an increase in wages to find new employees.

“We see employers getting more and more creative to attract employees with signing bonuses, flexible hours, educational assistance, working from home, etc.,” said Ken Warner, President of the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce .

Baker hopes to get HF 2648 on the house floor during the special session in June.

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“If we're lucky, we get a third of them that will take this deal,” said Baker. “That's a third more than might [get a job] today. So that's kind of the gist of that because it's not going to appeal to everybody.”

With no easy answer to a complex problem, Baker encourages his constituents to contact him as “this is one idea and I'm always open for new ideas.”

“I hope people do find better jobs and make more money,” said Baker. “But I'm looking for ways to get people to come back to work in Minnesota.”

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State Rep. Dave Baker Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo

Tim Speier joined the Brainerd Dispatch in October 2020, covering Public Safety and the Baxter City Council.
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