If you’re a skeptic of state government programs, imagine one that could save tens of thousands of jobs, boost worker incomes by millions of dollars and save money for taxpayers.


Illinois already has such a program. It’s called “work-share.” I sponsored legislation that created the program, and it was signed into law in 2014. Unfortunately, the program was never fully implemented by the previous governor. Now, with the economy grinding to a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic, work-share is needed more than ever.


Far too often when it comes to policy discussions in Springfield, business and labor groups are fighting each other. This is a win-win. In fact, it’s a triple-win. Not only does work-share benefit employers and their employees, taxpayers save money in unemployment insurance costs.


Here’s how work-share works: 1) Employers struggling in a weak economy can temporarily reduce hours and avoid the upheaval of laying off skilled workers. 2) Employees can collect partial unemployment benefits and keep health care coverage while staying on the job part time, gaining a sense of security and peace of mind. 3) The state saves money that would have been paid to laid-off workers drawing full benefits.


According to researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, an Illinois work-share program would:



Save as many as 124,000 jobs annually.
Increase total worker income $1.3 billion over six months.
Reduce turnover costs by $1.2 billion for businesses in 2020.

There’s more good news. Under the federal government’s $2-trillion coronavirus relief package, the 29 states that have work-share programs will see their costs fully reimbursed. The potential savings for Illinois? A whopping $1.1 billion in unemployment insurance costs in 2020 alone.


An unfortunate result of efforts to reduce the spread of coronavirus has been businesses temporarily closing and unemployment skyrocketing. This response wouldn’t be so painful if Illinois could take advantage of the work-share program already on the books.


Even though the business community and labor came together to work with me to shape and pass the work-share law, the Rauner administration failed to write necessary rules on how the program should operate.


The U of I/ILEPI study says 91% of employers who participate in work-share programs report they are either “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to participate again. Among other findings: workers who lose jobs tend to have permanently lower lifetime earnings, educational progress and future earnings of children are hindered by parental job loss and reliance on government assistance programs caused by unemployment is reduced by maintaining employer-provided benefits.


State and federal governments have already taken unprecedented actions to stabilize the economy, and I’m encouraged Gov. JB Pritzker has articulated plans to fully implement Illinois’ work-share program. I believe work-share will provide additional relief to businesses and workers in what will likely be more difficult days ahead.


Steve Stadelman is a Democratic member of the Illinois Senate from the 34th district.