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Hourly school workers can now apply for summer benefits

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The change in state law is a first-of-is-kind in the country and can help workers who were long excluded from benefits if they’re laid off over the summer.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Over the past couple of years, there have been staffing shortages amongst several professions within school districts, including paraprofessionals, bus drivers and food service workers. 

A new Minnesota law is trying to retain those workers by giving hourly school workers access to something most other workers already have — unemployment insurance if they can’t find temporary work in the summer. 

“People have been working to get this exclusion, to end this exclusion, for decades,” said Rep. Emma Greenman (DFL-Minneapolis). “We’re just doing it now, but I think it’s been long overdue.”

For 80 years, those workers weren’t legally able to access what Rep. Greenman calls a “basic worker’s right.” The workforce is predominately made up of people of color, women and people over the age of 50.

“I think the legacy of this exclusion is really rooted in gendered and racist norms,” said Rep. Greenman. 

The positions were also born at a time when unions didn’t exist, making it impossible to fight for protections. Hamline University political science professor David Schultz called the change historic. 

“This is an enormously big deal for the workers and really for worker’s rights in Minnesota in terms of setting a precedent across the United States,” said Schultz. “What it really does here, is gives a group of workers, who are otherwise relatively powerless and unable to protect themselves over time, gives them more bargaining power.”

The change has been a decades-long fight, and while it brings unemployment insurance in line with how it covers other seasonal workers, it has also long faced criticism. 

“What do you say to the critics who might say, and I’m summarizing, ‘You knew this was a nine-month job when you took it,'” asked KARE 11 reporter Jennifer Hoff. 

“It’s actually not the way our economy and job market should run, but what we know is we want these folks to come back,” said Rep. Greenman. “They’ve left for other jobs, especially in this environment.”

The law gives workers a safety net and a reason to return to work when staffing shortages persist. At one point, Anoka-Hennepin, the state’s largest district, was down some 75 paraprofessionals. The bus company, First Student, needed 200 drivers, and when food service workers in Hastings went on strike to fight for higher wages, sometimes students served lunch instead. 

“This is really about that economic security to make sure you can pay your bills and feed your families if that job falls through or you don’t get those hours,” said Rep. Greenman. 

But critics question how this mandate will be sustainable. Those in favor say, after the program is enacted, they’ll have a better idea of its long-term cost. 

The law will start by setting aside $135 million to pay for these benefits beginning this summer. That could impact about 70,000 people, but Rep. Greenman thinks only 30% would apply. 

You still have to qualify and in part, be actively looking for additional employment. For answers to more questions regarding eligibility, click here.

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7-year-old injured in dog attack in Brooklyn Park

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According to police, the attack happened on the 7500 block of Janelle Avenue North. Police say the girl sustained “superficial” injuries from the attack.

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. — A 7-year-old girl was injured after being attacked by a dog Tuesday in Brooklyn Park.

According to police, the incident happened on the 7500 block of Janelle Avenue North. Police say the girl sustained “superficial” injuries from the attack.

While attempting to contain the dog, police say it tried attacking a boy. Officers then killed the dog, according to a release.

It’s the second dog attack reported in Brooklyn Park over the past five days after officers responded to a call on Friday, July 19 where two dogs were actively attacking a 3-year-old. The child was transported to a nearby hospital, and was last said to be in “critical” condition. Several officers fired their weapons at the dogs, killing one and injuring the other, according to a release.



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Answers sought after Minneapolis man hit by car, ‘left for dead’, then had backpack stolen

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“They fled the scene and left him for dead,” Andy Meissner, Carl Vargas’ brother, said.

MINNEAPOLIS — Many intersections don’t mean much to most people – except for Victoria Nichols and Andy Meissner. The intersection of Third Avenue South and South Seventh Street now holds a negative connotation after their nephew and brother was hit by a car and left behind in the early hours of July 14.

“My brother Carl was riding his motorcycle home,” Meissner said.

Carl Vargas was riding his motorcycle along Third Avenue South, crossing Seventh where he had a green light. Surveillance video obtained by the family and shown to KARE 11 shows a black Camaro speed through the intersection, hitting Carl, skidding to a stop halfway down the next block.

“What it was at first was anger, was probably what it was,” Meissner said. “Obviously at the whole situation and the fact that these guys did what they did.”

“They fled the scene and left him for dead,” Meissner added.

MPD says this is an active and open investigation, but Nichols and Meissner say they feel left in the dark.

“We’re waiting to hear back about what it being done, but still, it feels like not enough is being done,” he said.

It’s why they’ve spent days asking buildings nearby for that surveillance video.

“There’s several camera angles that we have,” Nichols said.

“The only car that comes after the Camaro,” she said, showing KARE 11 the video. “Of which the two suspects enter in, and then continue down Seventh Street.”

To make matters worse, while Carl is lying on the ground in pain, surveillance video shows a random person come up and takes his bag.

“Made it impossible for first responders to even identify Carl,” Meissner said. “We didn’t find out, pretty much, until Monday.”

Carl is still at the hospital, resting and recovering. Until the people who did this are found, Nichols and Meissner say they won’t stop.

“Trying to get justice for Carl,” Nichols said. “That’s really our bottom line, that’s really the end game here.”

The family is asking for any help or information. To donate, click here.



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State election directors fear the Postal Service can’t handle expected crush of mail-in ballots

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State election directors stressed that they’re worried that too many ballots won’t be delivered in time to be counted.

MINNEAPOLIS — State election directors from across the country voiced serious concerns to a top U.S. Postal Service official Tuesday that the system won’t be able to handle an expected crush of mail-in ballots in the November election.

Steven Carter, manager of election and government programs for the postal service, attempted to reassure the directors at a meeting in Minneapolis that the system’s Office of Inspector General will publish an election mail report next week containing “encouraging” performance numbers for this year so far.

“The data that that we’re seeing showing improvements in the right direction,” Carter told a conference of the National Association of State Election Directors. “And I think the OIG report is especially complimentary of how we’re handling the election now.”

But state election directors stressed to Carter that they’re still worried that too many ballots won’t be delivered in time to be counted in November. They based their fears on past problems and a disruptive consolidation of postal facilities across the country that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has put on hold until after the elections.

Monica Evans, executive director of the District of Columbia Board of Elections, recounted how she never received her mail ballot for her own June primary. She ended up voting in person.

“We had, at last count, over 80 ballots that were timely mailed as early as May for our June 4 primary election,” Evans said, noting that her office could have accepted them as late as June 14, but they still arrived too late. “We followed up and we just kept getting, ‘We don’t know what happened. We don’t know what happened.'”

While former President Donald Trump has complained without foundation that fraudulent mailed ballots cost him a second term in 2020, mail-in voting has become a key component of each party’s strategy to maximize the turnout of their voters in 2024. Now Republicans, sometimes including Trump, see it as necessary for an election that is likely to be decided by razor-thin margins in a handful of swing states. Republicans once were at least as likely as Democrats to vote by mail, but Trump changed the dynamics in 2020 when he began to argue against it months before voting began.

Bryan Caskey, the elections director for Kansas who’s also the association’s incoming president, asked Carter to consider a hypothetical jurisdiction that has a 95% on-time rate for mail deliveries, which he said is better than what almost all states are getting.

“That still means that in the state that sends out 100,000 ballots, that’s 5,000 pissed-off, angry voters that are mad about the mail service,” Caskey said, adding, “Actual elections are being determined by these delays, and I just want to make sure that you’re hearing why we’re so upset.”

“It’s totally understandable,” Carter said. “The frustration is understandable.”

The association’s current president, Mandy Vigil, the elections director for New Mexico, said in an interview afterward that she appreciated that the service was at least willing to engage with the state officials, but that she’s concerned that there isn’t enough time before the general election.

“I think that we are at a place where we really need them to pay attention,” Vigil said. “You know, we’ve been voicing our concerns since last November. But we just aren’t seeing the changes as we’re working through our primary elections. And when it comes to November, like, we need to see a difference.”

Nineteen senators wrote to DeJoy last month asking the postmaster general about the service’s policies and plans to prepare for the 2024 election cycle. They pointed out how the first regional consolidation, in Virginia last year, led to delivery delays that led some local election officials there to direct residents to bypass the mail and place their primary election ballots in designated drop boxes. They noted that Virginia’s on-time delivery rate fell below 72% for fiscal 2024, or over 15% below the national average.

Other consolidations have been blamed for degraded service in Oregon, Virginia, Texas and Missouri. The consolidation has also created concern among lawmakers in Utah, where state law requires that ballots be mailed from within Utah, but the postal service now processes mail from some counties in Nevada after moving some operations from Provo to Las Vegas. The entire Minnesota and North Dakota congressional delegations wrote to DeLoy last month after an inspector general’s audit documented nearly 131,000 missing or delayed pieces of mail at six post offices over the course of just two days.

DeJoy paused the cost-cutting consolidations until January 2025 in the wake of bipartisan criticism, but lawmakers want a commitment that the resumption won’t lead to further delivery delays.



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