Work Share: How to help workers, businesses and states all at once
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Millions of Americans have lost, or are losing, their jobs, and small businesses across the country are closing daily. The coronavirus emergency aid legislation passed by Congress last week was a good first step in helping workers and businesses, but more must be done. One simple and quick fix would be updating what 27 states and Washington, DC already allow – work share programs.

Work share programs allow businesses to reduce employee hours, instead of laying them off completely, while also allowing those workers to file for partial unemployment to make up for lost pay. In this set-up, businesses can try to stay afloat instead of completely closing, workers receive some pay and benefits from their employer on top of their unemployment pay, and state unemployment systems don’t face the full impact of every employee being laid off at once. Businesses stay open, workers receive more pay, and states save money – everyone can win.

That’s why I was disheartened when the recently passed coronavirus legislation did not adequately expand work share programs in response to this crisis. Every state in the nation should have a work share program, there should be no minimum number of employees a business must have in order to participate, employees in a work share program should receive the additional weekly unemployment benefits provided for in the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act”, and businesses should be allowed to reduce the number of hours an employee works down to at least 20 percent of regular hours and still participate in the program.

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As House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi calls Trump's decision to withdraw US from WHO 'an act of extraordinary senselessness' House Democrats unveil measure to condemn police brutality The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Khanna says President Trump threatening violence against US citizens; Trump terminating relationship with WHO MORE (D-Calif.) drafts the fourth coronavirus response aid package, I will be requesting an expansion of federal work share laws that accomplishes each of the outcomes outlined above. Additionally, I will be introducing the “Layoff Prevention Act” alongside my good friend, Rep. Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroCOVID-19 workplace complaints surge; unions rip administration Lack of child care poses major hurdle as businesses reopen Frustrations grow over incomplete racial data on COVID-19 cases, deaths MORE (D-Conn.), to achieve these goals, and I am currently working with the Wisconsin Legislature and governor to make my own home state’s work share program more robust.

As a small business owner and operator for more than 30 years, I know the struggles America’s small businesses are currently facing, and as a member of Congress I constantly hear the fear in my constituents’ voices when I speak to them. Congress must do more in the next legislative package to keep small businesses open and make coronavirus-impacted workers whole. I am glad that Wisconsin has taken work share programs seriously and that we are exploring expanding them, but the federal government must ensure that small businesses in every state have access to a work share program – and the federal government should fully offset the cost of implementing them.

No American worker who had a job at the start of this crisis should fear for their economic future, and every small business who wishes to reopen after this crisis should be able to do so. Right now, Americans should stay home and protect the health of their families, neighbors and loved ones. And the federal government should make sure everyone is economically protected. I believe expanding work share programs is one of the best ways we can accomplish that goal.

Mark PocanMark William PocanHouse punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA Pelosi pulls vote on FISA bill after Trump veto threat MORE represents Wisconsin’s 2nd District and is co-chair of the Progressive Caucus.