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Bill Would Create a Portable Benefits Pilot Program for ‘Gig’ Workers

As many as one-third of the U.S. workforce is said to be currently engaged in temporary, contract or on-demand work – and a new bicameral legislative proposal seeks to set aside some funding to study alternatives.

The Portable Benefits for Independent Workers Pilot Program Act would establish a portable benefits pilot program at the U.S. Department of Labor, authorizing a total of $20 million for competitive grants to states, local governments and nonprofits for pilot projects to design, implement and evaluate new models ($15 million) or assess and improve existing models ($5 million) for portable benefits for independent workers such as contractors, temporary workers and self-employed workers.

The bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate last week by Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA).

According to a press release, eligible models should provide any number of work-related benefits and protections – such as retirement savings, workers compensation, life or disability insurance, sick leave, training and educational benefits, health care and more. In order to encourage innovative thinking on these challenging issues, programs focused solely on retirement-related benefits will not be eligible. In awarding grants, the Secretary of Labor is directed to prioritize models that can be replicated on a large scale or at the national level.