CASPER — The Wyoming Legislature formally advanced a bill creating the state’s first short-time compensation program Thursday which, if signed by Gov. Mark Gordon, would allow workers whose hours are reduced by their employer to apply for partial unemployment benefits. 

If passed into law, the bill — which sailed through the House and Senate after months of work in the interim — would create a win-win situation for both employers and the state by offering employers the flexibility to adjust hours and avert layoffs for up to one full year while saving the state money by reducing the number of people seeking full unemployment benefits. 

Its passage also addresses a shortcoming in the state’s response to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

When Congress passed its first COVID-19 relief bill in March 2020, Wyoming was one of 23 states in the country ineligible for funding intended to shore up their short-time compensation programs, primarily because the state did not have such a program. 

Wyoming’s program will likely be unlike those in other states. 

Employers themselves will need to apply for the program in order to be eligible and will be subject to specific reporting requirements after an amendment by Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, passed with widespread support on third reading. 

The amount employees can be eligible for cannot exceed 40 hours weekly and will only kick in if a worker’s hours are reduced between 10% and 60%, according to the bill text. No workers are to be laid off as a part of a business’s participation in a short-term compensation plan. 

The bill still needs to go back to the House of Representatives to be approved for concurrence. 

If Gordon signs the bill, it will take effect immediately, though the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services will likely need time to establish the program and fill a full-time position to facilitate it.

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