The Portable Benefits for Independent Workers Pilot Program Act was reintroduced in the Senate today.
The legislation would test innovative portable benefits designs for the growing independent workforce and provide workers with access to insurance protections typically provided through traditional full-time employment.
Originally introduced by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner and U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene of Washington in 2017, it was reintroduced by Warner, DelBene and Sen. Todd Young of Indiana to establish a $20 million grant fund within the U.S. Department of Labor to incentivize states, localities and nonprofit organizations to experiment with portable benefits models.
“Each year more and more Americans engage in part-time, contract or other alternative work arrangements to support themselves and their families. But despite these shifts, our retirement and savings programs aren’t keeping up to help these workers,” Warner said. “This program will encourage experimentation at the state and local levels to support the realities of a 21st century workforce.”
According to DelBene, the way Americans work is rapidly evolving, and laws need to catch up.
“Today, millions of workers lack access to benefits like workers’ compensation and paid time off. We must act to ensure our economy works for everyone. This legislation is an important step toward ensuring benefits are accessible to all workers, regardless of their work arrangement. Whether you are a rideshare driver or an online artisan, you should have the same benefits opportunities as other workers,” DelBene said.
Cosponsored in the Senate by Sens. Angus King of Maine, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Michael Bennet of Colorado and John Hoeven North Dakota.
“Job opportunities in the gig economy provide workers with utmost flexibility,” Young said. “Supporting portable benefit options helps uncover creative solutions to addressing the needs of our rapidly changing workforce. I am pleased to reintroduce this bill to make it easier for Hoosiers find the job opportunity that best suits their family situation.”
The U.S. workforce has changed significantly in the last 10 years, and independent contractors, part-time workers, temporary or contingent workers struggle to find access to benefits and protections commonly provided to full-time employees. Benefits include paid leave, workers’ compensation, skills training, unemployment insurance, tax withholding and tax-advantaged retirement savings. A system is needed that allows workers to carry these benefits with them from job to job across a lifetime in the workforce.
Other benefits provided by eligible models would be life or disability insurance, sick leave, training and educational benefits and health care. The Secretary of Labor will be directed to prioritize models that can be replicated on a large scale or at a national level in order to qualify for grant funding.