INDIANAPOLIS — A new report from the Brookings Institution found Indiana lost tens of thousands of jobs and missed out on millions of dollars in federal aid for unemployment claims because the state did not have a work share program in place at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce on Thursday highlighted the report in renewing a call for the General Assembly to adopt work share.
The report found Indiana could have saved as many as 34,000 jobs during May through October 2020 and missed out on as much as $116 million in federal funding to pay for unemployment claims. The latter figure could go as high as $200 million if work share is not passed this legislative session, according to the Indiana Chamber.
"It's time to have a genuine discussion on the merits of the policy," Kevin Brinegar, president and CEO of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, said. "Though Indiana has missed the boat on work share so far, we still have time to change course and get the program paid for."
There are 28 states that have work share laws currently 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, the chamber said. 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, the chamber said.
"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% of work share's partial unemployment benefits," Brinegar said. "President Biden's relief proposal would extend those payments through September and possibly beyond."