Report urges Indiana to adopt work share program

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INDIANAPOLIS– By not adopting a work share program, Indiana is leaving thousands of jobs and at least $100 million in free federal money on the table, according to the Brookings Institution.

A work share program would give Indiana employers another option during hard times.

“Work share allows the employer to reduce the hours of a group or a unit of employees no more than 50 percent,” said Kevin Brinegar, President of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

Instead of laying off workers entirely, employees would work fewer hours and unemployment insurance would pay a portion of the hours cut for up to 12 months.

“28 states have enacted work share and we have a large number of companies in our members that support work share, we have given key legislators a list of some 200,” said Brinegar.

“For a lot of our members, it’s a bit of a new idea,” explained Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray. “And as you know, sometimes it takes a while for people to get their hands around a different idea.”

The Brookings Institution looks to educate those lawmakers. It estimates Indiana could have saved 34,000 jobs during May through October and missed out on as much as $116 million in federal funding for not adopting the program. Millions more is available if lawmakers act quickly.

“I would say that this is a good year for us to discuss it, debate it, learn about the advantages of it,” said Bray.

Those opposed argue this is another social program or expansion of government.

“Unemployment insurance is required by federal law,” explained Brinegar. “Work share is just an additional option within the unemployment insurance program.”

The Indiana Chamber hopes the impact of the pandemic and new research from the Brookings Institution is enough to get this passed in 2021. Bray said if not this year, he believes this will come up again.

Brinegar said the federal government is looking to pay 100 percent of the work share program partial unemployment benefits until at least September.

It has already committed to paying $100 million in administrative costs to states that adopt the program between now and the end of 2023.

Governor Eric Holcomb’s office told us he will continue monitoring this policy as its debated in the statehouse.

A hearing is expected in the senate next week.

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