Few Companies Offer Worksharing, But It Could Come In Handy As COVID-19 Drags On

More than 30 million Americans have lost their jobs and signed up for expanded unemployment benefits over the last month, while a small business loan program has likely prevented millions of additional layoffs. There’s another program that could help ― one that splits the difference between layoffs and job subsidies. It’s called short-time compensation, or…

Few Companies Offer Worksharing, But It Could Come In Handy As COVID-19 Drags On

More than 30 million Americans have lost their jobs and signed up for expanded unemployment benefits over the last month, while a small business loan program has likely prevented millions of additional layoffs.
There’s another program that could help ― one that splits the difference between layoffs and job subsidies. It’s called short-time compensation, or worksharing. It’s not a new program, but Congress gave it a funding boost in the second coronavirus relief bill passed earlier this year. 
It works like this: Instead of laying off a portion of its workers, a company can reduce their hours, and the unemployment insurance system pays for the missing time. Thanks to the new law, the federal government will cover the benefits in the 29 states that already have worksharing programs, and half the cost in states that set up new ones.
There’s been a sevenfold increase in the number of workers in worksharing arrangements since this time last year, according to the U.S. Labor Department, but that only amounts to 62,297 jobs. The concept could prove useful in the coming months, however, after a new loan program for small businesses expires. 
“Rather than only having a fraction of their workforce on the payroll, the employer can have most people working short hours, and then have the government make up a large chunk of the wages lost from fewer hours,” said Dean Baker, a labor economist with the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research and a visiting professor at the University of Utah. 
“This way, when demand picks up, they have the workers on staff and just have to increase hours,” Baker said. 
Baker and other economists who favor short-time compensation programs have often lamented that they’re not terribly well-known, likely part of the reason so few workers are enrolled. Progressive Democrats have said they want to ramp up worksharing as part of the next bill Congress passes.
Elizabeth Milito of the National Federation of Independent Business said she’s mentioned worksharing in webinars about the various government initiatives available, but h
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