Inside INdiana Business

Chamber CEO: State has ‘missed the boat’ on workshare program

Kevin Brinegar is the president and CEO of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. (IIB Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — The Indiana Chamber of Commerce says new research from the Brookings Institution on the economic climate of Indiana gives the business organization more resolve to push the state legislature to approve a workshare program.

The chamber made work share a legislative priority as Indiana lawmakers started the current session.

“It’s time to have a genuine discussion on the merits of the policy,” said Indiana Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Brinegar.

Under a workshare program, employers can keep skilled employees on their payroll through reduced hours during an economic downturn instead of being forced to impose complete layoffs. Employees retain their work-based benefits like health care and retirement while receiving partial unemployment benefits.

Twenty-eight states have the program, but Indiana is not one of them. The chamber says Indiana would have benefitted from the program during the pandemic.

“Though Indiana has missed the boat on work share so far, we still have time to change course and get the program paid for,” said Brinegar.

On Wednesday, Brookings released the results of a landmark study which suggests while Indiana has had one of the best recoveries from the pandemic, it still has many struggles to overcome.

Brinegar says the state is losing money and economic viability. The Brookings Institution says Indiana could have saved as many as 34,000 jobs during May through October and missed out on as much as $116 million in federal funding to pay for unemployment claims.

“We aren’t speculating or theorizing impact – or just relying on the Brookings numbers, powerful as they are,” said Brinegar. “Employers have expressed the need to us directly and relayed that painful layoffs and shutting down entire manufacturing plants would not have happened during the pandemic if Indiana had a work share program.”

Columbus-based Cummins Inc. (NYSE: CMI) uses the workshare program at its facilities in states that have the system in place.

“We strongly urge the legislature to adopt work share in Indiana to help employers, small and large, retain their highly skilled workforce and navigate the ups and downs of our economy,” said Andrew Penca, Cummins executive director – supply chain, engine business.

Penca adds the program has helped Cummins to rebound, “from the challenging economic and market conditions we faced.”

Editor’s Note:

The Central Indiana Corporate Partnership conducted the Indiana GPS Project in collaboration with Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program and the American Enterprise Institute. The findings are far-reaching and include the impact of COVID-19 and how regional Hoosier economies are faring. On this weekend’s edition of Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, we’ll dig into the data and break down what it means to the state’s economic future with CICP President and CEO David Johnson and Brookings Institution Senior Fellow and Director of Metropolitan Policy Programs Mark Muro.