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House Bill 4409 creates the Valued Employee Retention Program with the goal of giving employers incentive to reduce workers’ hours rather than laying them off.
It requires employers to enter an agreement to submit a plan explaining how instead of laying off their employees they would reduce their hours. In exchange, the employee could get unemployment benefits proportional to the amount of hours that they’ve been reduced.
If the employee had an eight hour day and the employer cut it to four hours, they would be eligible for 50 percent of what they would if they were laid off.
The program is intended to be short term. Proposed programs from employers can only be approved for a period of one year as the business attempts to recover enough to return their employees to normal hours.
Delegates had many questions; Delegate Daryl Cowles asked about the fiscal impact the bill would have on the Unemployment Trust Fund.
The federal government would assist with part of the cost.
The benefit payments for this program are estimated to be 1.6 million dollars. The U.S. Department of Labor would reimburse compliant states for benefits up to August 22, 2015. The benefit cost is based on several studies of other states which indicate a .7 percent share of total regular benefits paid for.
Despite a few objections, the bill was approved by the committee to be reported to the floor.