May 25, 2017

Warner exploring portable benefits for gig economy workers

AP

Sen. Mark Warner is hoping to push the federal government to tackle the difficult questions about how companies like Uber and Lyft are changing the nature of work — and, more specifically, the nature of benefits.

At issue: Many benefits are traditionally tied to your full-time employer. But with the rise of on-demand economy companies that rely on contractors, a growing share of the workforce is going to miss out on benefits like health insurance and retirement savings plans.

  • The bill from Virginia's Warner, a Democrat, would give the Labor Department $20 million to fund pilot programs related to either new or existing models for portable benefits. In other words, benefits you that aren't linked to employment status. Warner told Axios that "rather than starting with some kind of federally driven, top-down solution, what we're trying to say is let's go ahead and try and experiment."
  • The grants aren't supposed to go to a program that "provides only retirement-related benefits," since Warner says he's hoping there will ultimately be more types of benefits available to workers.

Brass tacks: The bill has a companion in the House, sponsored by Democrat Suzan DelBene, and Warner says he expects it to gain support from Republicans. "We've had some conversations with Republicans. we want to go ahead and drop the bill, put the marker down, and I do anticipate that we'll gain some Republican and Democratic support," Warner said.

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