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Dem lawmakers: Let's explore benefits for gig economy workers

Dem lawmakers: Let's explore benefits for gig economy workers
© Greg Nash

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSanders: Democrats considering trillion spending package Cyber concerns dominate Biden-Putin summit Senate on collision course over Trump DOJ subpoenas MORE (D-Va.) wants the government to explore employment benefits for workers in the gig economy.

The senator and Rep. Suzan DelBeneSuzan Kay DelBeneThe case for improving America's research and experimentation tax credit Democrats renew push for permanent child credit expansion Democrats signal House bill to go further than Biden proposal on child tax credit MORE (D-Wash.) have introduced legislation to look at “portable benefit designs for the growing independent workforce.”

Uber, Lyft and other gig economy-style apps are fueling a shift in the labor force toward contract work, which usually comes without normal full-time job benefits such as healthcare and retirement plans.

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The Democrats’ bill would establish a $20 million grant fund in the Department of Labor to spur states, local governments and nonprofits to experiment with different benefit options for gig workers.

“Whether by choice or necessity, a growing number of Americans are working without a safety net and have difficulty planning and saving for retirement, health care needs, or on-the-job injuries,” Warner said in a statement. “The nature of work is changing rapidly, but our policies largely remain tied to a 20th century model of traditional full-time employment.”

As workers in some segments of the economy struggle to find jobs, or struggle to find jobs with pay that can meet their needs, many are turning to apps such as Uber or Task Rabbit, a freelance labor service app. While many workers extol the flexible schedules gig jobs give them, they often struggle to obtain health insurance and save for retirement.

“With 55 million Americans freelancing, the time has come to build a new safety net to support independent workers as they move from gig to gig,” said Sara Horowitz, founder and executive director of the Freelancers Union. “The lack of portable benefits is one of the biggest impediments blocking independent workers from thriving in the new economy."