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Front-line workers seeking financial help, ask why Indiana not using work-share program

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Employees at a medical supply delivery company want answers. Their hours have been cut and are unable to receive unemployment due to their salary. Indiana is one of the states that hasn’t adopted a work-sharing program to help with layoffs and reduced hours temporarily due to the pandemic.

A group of front-line workers have sent a letter to Governor Eric Holcomb and Congresswoman Susan Brooks asking for help. Four days a week, they go into nursing homes and hospitals to pick up medical beds, mattresses and deliver supplies.

In March, a handful of employees at New Source Medical received an email from human resources. They said employees “must reduce hours to no more than 30 hours per week” due to the pandemic.

Brian Richmond has been working only 30 hours a week for nine weeks. He’s lost 25% of his income, so he decided to file for unemployment.

The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) says most are not eligible for financial help if they’re still able to work 30 hours.

Twenty-seven states like Texas and California have opted for a work-sharing program, which is a voluntary unemployment insurance program. Companies can apply for the program which helps provide a different option for layoffs during hard times. Then, the state would make up for a portion of the companies’ loss.

DWD told News 8 they’re “not pursuing a work-share program at this time. The department is actively working to quickly implement and administer state and federal programs for Hoosier workers.”

“Basically, it’s an entire 40-hour workweek of your income that’s being taken away from you because of the pandemic,” New Source medical driver technican Brian Richmond said. “As far as buying paying bills, buying groceries, it’s a lot. I recently, before all this started, went out and purchased a new vehicle. I had to apply for assistance to push back payments on my vehicle. We’re on the front lines and going into these nursing homes and medical facilities that are being exposed to this COVID-19, you would think the government would have some sort of assistance.”

The unemployment office says some companies have laid off employees so they can collect full unemployment — which includes the additional $600 to help with benefits during the pandemic.

Richmond said that’s not an option because places like nursing homes and medical facilities need supplies delivered.

The Indiana Institute for Working Families first acknowledged the need for the work-sharing program in 2011 and then again in March when the pandemic began.

But the department of workforce development says as of now, nothing is in the works.