The national group said Indiana could have saved as many as 34,000 jobs during May through October and missed out on as much as $116 million in federal funding to pay for unemployment claims. The latter figure, Brookings cautions, could continue to grow to as high as $200 million by the end of September if the General Assembly does not pass work share this session.
Currently, 28 states have work share laws in place. Under the program, employers can keep skilled employees on their payroll through reduced hours during an economic downturn instead of being forced to impose complete layoffs. Employees retain their work-based benefits like health care and retirement while receiving partial unemployment benefits. The state avoids having to pay full unemployment to workers who would otherwise be laid off entirely. Then, when the company’s economic situation improves, employees can return to full-time status.
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has pushed the General Assembly to adopt work share previously but no House or Senate floor votes have occurred. President and CEO Kevin Brinegar says the Brookings data “should be a loud wakeup call” for the state.
“It’s time to have a genuine discussion on the merits of the policy. Though Indiana has missed the boat on work share so far, we still have time to change course and get the program paid for,” said Brenegar. “Federal funding remains available to pay for the computer system and administrative costs of a state program, plus the December stimulus package extended through April the policy under the CARES Act for federal funds to pay for 100 percent of work share’s partial unemployment benefits. President Biden’s relief proposal would extend those payments through September and possibly beyond.’’
One of Indiana’s leading employers, Cummins Inc., has successfully used work share programs in other states, calling them “essential to rebounding from the challenging economic and market conditions we faced,” offers Andrew Penca, executive director – supply chain, engine business.
“We strongly urge the Legislature to adopt work share in Indiana to help employers, small and large, retain their highly skilled workforce and navigate the ups and downs of our economy.”
The Indiana Chamber notes that work share enjoys bipartisan legislative backing overall – evidenced by legislators from all four caucuses introducing work share legislation in 2021 – and overwhelming support from Hoosiers. A December poll of 600 registered voters, commissioned by Indiana Business for Responsive Government, showed 78 percent of Hoosiers support work share and only 10 percent oppose. In every demographic and political subgroup, support for work share is overwhelming, according to Brinegar.
Hundreds of companies throughout the state have also let the Indiana Chamber know they want work share as an option for them and their employees. That growing list has been provided to key policymakers.
“We aren’t speculating or theorizing impact – or just relying on the Brookings numbers, powerful as they are. Employers have expressed the need to us directly and relayed those painful layoffs and shutting down entire manufacturing plants would not have happened during the pandemic if Indiana had a work share program,” Brinegar says. “It’s that clear cut, which makes it all the more frustrating that there have already been similar resistance at the Statehouse to work share as in the past. It’s absolutely something that is worthy of consideration and a vote by the full House and Senate. At this difficult time, we should be doing all we can to assist Hoosiers through the pandemic, and that includes aiding our economy by having work share.”
While the here and now is the pressing concern, Brinegar stresses the lasting positive impact of work share on Indiana can’t be overlooked. The Brookings research, part of a larger report commissioned by the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, cited “improved health and higher lifetime earnings” as key longer-term work share benefits.