Work Share proposal aimed at saving jobs

Updated: Feb. 6, 2014 at 8:47 AM EST
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The General Assembly is considering a bill to create a new form of unemployment insurance to help save jobs.

It's known as a Work Share program. Rather than layoff workers, struggling businesses can just cut back workers' hours. Those employees could collect partial unemployment benefits to help make up their lost wages. Senators Bill Stanley and George Barker co-sponsored the bi-partisan bill. They believe it will save jobs.

Said Senator George Barker, (D) - Fairfax, explained, "They still get the full benefits, their health insurance and all those types of things, but their wages will be less. But what they also will get is half of what they would have gotten in unemployment compensation."

Added Senator Bill Stanley, (R) - Danville, "It's a savings for the business. So when the economy goes back up, they don't have to go out and find and retrain workers. They're right there for them. It saves us paying the full amount for unemployment."

Virginia Chamber of Commerce President Barry DuVal says it will particularly help manufacturing companies and businesses with government contracts.

"They like the creative approach of hanging on to skilled workers, especially if they're seeing a temporary dip and they're a contract employer and they know the work is going to come back," said DuVal.

To pay for the benefits, employers would pay into the unemployment insurance fund just as they already do. Companies that use the program would pay an estimated $0.16 to $0.19 per employee per year. Senator Barker says companies that don't use the program would only pay an additional two cents per employee each year.

25 states and the District of Columbia already have Work Share programs, which can tap into $100 million from the Federal Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act until mid 2015.

Said Senator Stanley, "Studies have shown that using the work share program has saved 210,000 American jobs. So that's a lot of jobs saved."

Stanley and Barker have co-sponsored the bill three times. It passed the Senate last year and the House left it in committee. This year, the Senate passed it again. It's again in a House committee. We'll let you know what happens.