Young, Hoeven cosponsor bipartisan bill to study, provide portable benefits

U.S. Sens. Todd Young (R-IN) and John Hoeven (R-ND) on May 18 signed on as original cosponsors of a bipartisan bill that would establish a pilot program for providing portable benefits to America’s independent workers, who are independent contractors, temporary workers, or self-employed, or who work other contingent or alternative work arrangements. 

“Job opportunities in the gig economy provide workers with utmost flexibility,” Sen. 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 to find the job opportunity that best suits their family situation.”

The Portable Benefits for Independent Workers Pilot Program Act, S. 1696, is sponsored by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and three other cosponsors, while U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA) on May 18 led three Democratic cosponsors in introducing the same-named H.R. 3482 in her chamber.

“As we experience a workforce shortage across the nation, offering more flexible benefits and support will help make it easier for workers across the country and in North Dakota to find the right job opportunity for them and their families,” said Sen. Hoeven.

Americans who earn all or some of their income as independent contractors, part-time workers, temporary workers, or contingent workers have found it difficult and expensive to access benefits and protections that are commonly provided to full-time employees, including paid leave, workers’ compensation, skills training, unemployment insurance, tax withholding, and tax-advantaged retirement savings, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers.

If enacted, the measure would provide workers with access to insurance protections typically provided through traditional full-time employment and would 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, the summary says.

“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,” said Sen. Warner. “This program will encourage experimentation at the state and local levels to support the realities of a 21st century workforce.”

Programs focused solely on retirement-related benefits would not be eligible for grant awards and the Secretary of Labor would be directed to prioritize models that could be replicated on a large scale or at the national level, according to the summary.