U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA) introduced legislation to test and evaluate innovative portable benefit designs for the growing independent workforce. As many as one-third of the U.S. workforce is currently engaged in temporary, contract or on-demand work, and the Warner-DelBene proposal seeks innovative ways to provide these workers with access to many of the social insurance protections typically provided to workers through traditional full-time employment. The legislation establishes 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 for the independent workforce.
The Portable Benefits for Independent Workers Pilot Program Act would establish a portable benefits pilot program at the U.S. Department of Labor. It authorizes 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.
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.
A copy of the bill text is available here.