WASHINGTON -- Top Minnesota political leaders on Tuesday asked U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to speed up the approval of additional benefits for "downstream" workers affected by Minnesota's stalled out mining industry.

In a letter delivered late Monday, Gov. Mark Dayton, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Rep. Rick Nolan said suppliers and vendors who furnished support to the mining industry are suffering from layoffs, just like the miners did, and need federal help.

The letter points out Minnesota submitted 32 petitions for help for vendors and suppliers of the mining industry. An estimated 3,000 people have been affected by mass layoffs since last year in the steel and taconite industry up on the Iron Range.

Under the Trade Adjustment Assistance law, which was just passed by Congress last year, mining companies and their contractors are due federal help if their industry is affected by trade. This help can include cash assistance but also help finding other jobs. Miners received some TAA help last year.

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