Congress

Employers would get subsidies for hiring longtime unemployed workers in draft bill

The draft bill aims to assist an estimated 1.3 million people who have been out of work for at least six months

Sen. Chris Van Hollen exits the Senate subway as he arrives in the Capitol for the weekly Senate Democrats policy lunch on May 7, 2019. The Maryland Democrat and fellow Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon have proposed a new bill that would offer subsidies to employers who hire longtime unemployed workers. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A pair of Democratic senators introduced legislation Thursday that would offer subsidies to employers who hire longtime unemployed workers.

The draft bill, sponsored by Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and backed by Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, aims to assist an estimated 1.3 million people who have been out of work for at least six months. The government would offer one-year subsidies to cover two-thirds of the cost of a new hire’s wages and benefits, although the subsidy could be increased in times of high unemployment.

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The measure would be costly. While there is no official cost estimate, a Van Hollen aide said providing subsidies for 1.3 million workers could cost about $30 billion a year. To pay for it, Van Hollen and Wyden said they plan to eliminate tax incentives for shipping jobs overseas.

Van Hollen pointed to an Obama administration proposal that would have imposed a minimum 19 percent tax on foreign profits. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated at the time that such a tax would generate $298 billion over a decade, an amount that would roughly cover the cost of the new legislation.

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Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, made clear he would try to revisit the 2017 Republican tax code overhaul to find revenue. “The tax bill is a badly flawed giveaway and there’s money there that ought to be taken from where it is now and moved to this kind of effort,” he said. Wyden introduced a similar bill in January, which he said would be paired with Van Hollen’s measure.

While there is little chance of the bills gaining traction under the Trump administration and a Republican-controlled Senate, both senators said they are putting the issue of the long-term unemployed on the radar of Democratic presidential candidates. “Our goal is to get this into the political bloodstream,” Van Hollen said.

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