Opinion It's time to upgrade benefits Rep Suzan DelBene Jonathan Gornall T he economic crisis sparked by COVID-19 resulted in historic layoffs and the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression. Even now, while businesses are tepidly beginning to rehire, the U.S. has still lost millions of jobs since before the outbreak. To keep the economy afloat and buoy consumer spending, Congress increased the amount of unemployment benefits laid-off workers could receive by $600 per week while also expanding the types of workers who qualified. This was an important recognition that the nature of work has changed drastically in the past decade, but our traditional benefit systems remain tied to the 20th century. As much as one-third of our workforce is made up of either gig workers, contract workers, or those who are self-employed. This can range from a Lyft driver to a plumber who runs their own business. When the pandemic hit, these workers were particularly vulnerable because they live outside the standard safety net that was built around a traditional employer-employee relationship. That makes it significantly more difficult to access benefits and protections that are normally provided to fulltime workers, like paid leave, workers' compensation, health coverage and retirement planning. This economic crisis requires us to rethink the outdated and rigid design of our benefit systems. Last year, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and I introduced a bill that would create a grant program to let states partner with local governments and the private sector to test out new portable benefit models to meet the needs of their changing workforce and allow workers to seamlessly transition their benefits from job to job. Seeing the once in a generation disruption in the workforce created by the pandemic, we updated the proposal in May to also upgrade antiquated state unemployment infrastructure so that all types of workers receive unemployment benefits in a timely manner. There likely won't be one right answer to this problem. Since the types of workers who would be helped by more flexible benefit structures are so diverse, we need to experiment with a variety of ideas. As we share what we learn, other states and the federal government can see what works and what doesn't. In the long-term, this helps us build the best solutions for everyone. Look to Washington state as one of the boldest examples of this so far. In 2018, the state legislature proposed creating a portable benefits program for contract workers that would require companies to contribute to a benefits provider that would offer programs including health insurance, paid time off and retirement to these workers. The state would determine the total amount collected from businesses. What was surprising about this proposal was who was behind it. Uber and the Service Employees International Union, who are often on opposite sides of the misclassification of labor discussion, released a joint letter calling for policies that focused on five principles: flexibility, portability, universality, innovation and independence. Both the private sector and labor groups see the need for this change. This is an issue facing states and communities across the country and Congress should be the catalyst for a national redesign of benefit structures. Funding and resources are naturally a sticking point in implementing these proposals, especially right now. Many state and local governments are facing deep budget deficits because of the ongoing pandemic. The Washington proposal never made it into law in part because of its cost. Creating a grant program at the federal level would provide states the flexibility to implement these ideas without economic hardship. In turn, the federal government and other states can learn from their models. Technology and innovation have changed the nature of work more in the past decade than in the previous century, resulting in a multitude of opportunities, and challenges, for workers and businesses alike. We must seize this moment to update the social insurance structures that protect workers, so they and their families are better positioned for the future of work. How did China accomplish it? There were three key pil- lars underpinning its success, namely strong leadership, a comprehensive mechanism, and broad support. First, strong leadership ensured the right direction and strategy in the Covid-19 war. Matt Warner In Sri Lanka, diaper tariffs have kept these essential daily products out of reach for young families, many of whom have resorted to theft in order to get medical atten- tion in some hospitals. Takizawa Ichir The folly people can't answer Mark Mellman This allowed the Soviets to I 've been privileged to work with many campaign managers over the years, nearly all of whom have been wonderful. Most of them taught me important lessons. At least once a cycle though, I have some variant of the following conversation: Campaign Manager: I really need our poll to find out XYZ. Me: I understand why finding out XYZ would be very important, but polls just cannot tell us that. CM: But I really need to know. Just ask a question. Me: I appreciate your need to know, but unfortunately your need to know is unrelated to voters' ability to tell us. We'll get a number, but it won't mean anything. CM: Just ask the question. I need to know. Last week's topic - likely voters - is one example of the substantive issues under discussion in these dialogues. Where people get their information is another. The payoff for knowing is huge. However, the possibility of finding out, accurately, from a poll is remote. As with turnout, questions can be asked. Answers will be given and transformed into numbers. It's seductive; it looks like science. But we now know definitively that answers to questions about where people obtain their political information are so inaccurate as to be worthless. A team of distinguished researchers led by David Rothschild of Microsoft and Tobias Konitzer of Predictwise analyzed the relationship between survey responses to media usage questions used by pollsters and hard behavioral data about what people actually do, gleaned from their electronic devices. Just as voter files offer hard evidence about whether someone did or did not cast a ballot, we have data from television set-top boxes, computers and mobile devices that tell us, with some certainty, what media people tune into and for how long. These hard data completely undermine any claim to accuracy made by poll questions on media usage. For example, in February 2019, the usually useful Navigator poll found 34 percent of voters watched Fox News "a few times a month or more." But according to the data supplied by their electronics, just 18 percent of voters watched Fox News even once for six or more minutes during that month. In short, Navigator overestimated the number of voters watching Fox by about 2 1/2 times. It's not just Navigator and it's not just cable news. A vast Knight Foundation survey queried 19,196 adults about how they "stay up on the news." Forty-one percent indicated they read news via social media links. Again, the hard data during the same month the survey was fielded found just 9 percent of Americans consuming news that way, an overestimate of 450 percent. Pew asked how often their respondents "get news from a social media site (such as Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat.)" The hard data show poll responses exaggerate the facts by two to three times. You don't trust these researchers? You find flaws in their methods? Try another set of studies, this time by Facebook researchers, together with colleagues from Michigan and Georgia Tech. With direct access to Facebook's servers, they knew with some certainty how much time people were spending on their platform. Comparing the server data to responses from ten different poll questions about Facebook usage revealed all the survey items produced results at wide variance with reality. set up diplomatic facilities and for Communist intelli- gence forces to penetrate Japan. The worlds of politics, academia, and print journal- ism were targeted, as were high levels of the military and government. Alma S. Adams “Enough is enough: our essential workers deserve essential wages, and the easiest way to do that is by increasing the minimum wage. I've long been a believer that our workers deserve a raise. When I was a state legislator in North Carolina, I led the bill that gave our state its last minimum wage increase. Last year, I voted for the Raise the Wage Act, which the Senate should bring to the floor for a vote immediately. The Raise the Wage Act would gradually increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour by 2025, and it phases out the subminimum wage for tipped workers, youth workers and Americans with disabilities.”
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