Merkley, Colleagues Announce New Work Share Proposal to Help Employers and Workers Weather the Storm

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, along with U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), today announced new legislation to help small businesses, nonprofits, and workers weather the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and support a safe reopening.

On a press conference call, the senators laid out the details of their proposal, the Rebuilding Main Street Act, which would expand the existing work share program to allow employers to share their payroll costs with the federal government, while receiving grant help to cover other fixed costs like rent and needs for reopening safely like cleaning and protective equipment.

Employers and workers across the country are reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic shutdown. While Congress worked to pass four bipartisan legislative packages, large segments of the workforce and business sectors have not benefitted from the economic relief programs. 

“Throughout this pandemic, I’ve been in frequent touch with small business owners and workers in every corner of Oregon, and what I’ve heard time and time again is the need for flexibility and financial support as they work to re-open their business,” said Merkley. “Any effort to rebuild our economy must happen from Main Street up, not Wall Street down.”

The senators’ proposal encourages and expands work sharing—an existing program supported by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that helps participating employers avoid layoffs by instead reducing the hours of their employees. The plan allows employers to scale their workers’ hours down—or up—with unemployment insurance funded by the federal government making up the difference.  Instead of turning unemployment insurance on or off, it acts like a dimmer for businesses willing and able to keep employees on, just not at full time or salary. 

In return, those businesses receive a grant for some of the costs of weathering this crisis and reopening once it’s safe to do so.                                                                                                     

For a full summary of the Rebuilding Main Street Act, click here.