We’re still in the midst of a debate over continued federal enhancement of state unemployment insurance benefits and it doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon. But similar arguments are taking place at the state level as well. This is true of Minnesota, where legislators are rushing to get a few last-minutes items off their plates before they adjourn the current session. I’ll confess to being a bit confused when I saw this headline, however. There is a fight going on over whether or not the state should offer unemployment benefits to high school students. The first thing to find out is whether they’re talking about all students or just the ones who are working. (CBS Minnesota)

Organizations are calling on lawmakers to extend unemployment benefits to high school students before Minnesota’s special session ends.

Organizers behind the Don’t Forget Us campaign want students 16 and older to get temporary unemployment benefits if they’ve been laid off.

Marcus Pope, vice president of Youthprise, says Minnesota is one of the only states where high school students are excluded.

“We have a diverse range of high school students that are using their income for various kind of life-sustaining, practical needs. This isn’t just about pocket change,” Pope said. “This is about young people who are working to really meet the needs of themselves and their families during this pandemic.”

From the way this reads, they’re not talking about just starting to send unemployment checks to every high school student age 16 and older. That’s a relief because that would be fairly insane and contrary to the entire concept of the program. So if we’re narrowing this down to just the students who actually have (or in this case “had”) jobs, it’s a far more reasonable proposal. To the best of my knowledge, the states withhold unemployment insurance payments from all workers, regardless of age or whether they work full or part-time. If they’ve been paying into the system and making enough to qualify, why not allow them to file?

I’m not sure if the laws were the same back in the day when I was growing up, but I know I never received unemployment benefits. The problem is that the vast majority of the work I did was all private jobs involving shoveling snow, mowing lawns, garden work, etc. Most of the time I wasn’t drawing an actual paycheck, so I wasn’t having anything withheld. But if enough of these Minnesota teens are working on the books, again, why not let them participate?

The major drawback here is that few teenagers are able to work a significant amount of hours every week on top of their schoolwork and whatever else they have going on at home. The amount of benefits they would likely qualify for probably wouldn’t be a significant amount of money. But then, particularly when you’re a teenager, something is always better than nothing, right?

It’s hard enough to find teenagers willing to work these days as it is. (I think it’s been five years since any local teens have come around my neighborhood offering to mow lawns for pay.) If you can find some who are actually working, this is another way for them to dip a toe into the adult world and prepare for life after their schooling is complete.