From 2005 to 2015, 94% of the national job growth in the U.S. was in self-employed/independent contracting positions. The Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER)’s launched the Benefit U project in West Virginia, in partnership with ARC’s POWER Initiative, Mountain Heart Childcare, the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition, Coalfield Development Corporation, the Hive (a small business development group of the New River Gorge Development Authority), Central App, West Virginia Alliance for Sustainable Families, Tech Connect, as well as consultants that work in the field, to serve a similar function as an HR Department but for entrepreneurs, self-employed workers, independent contractors and other workers without access to benefits such as retirement, health, and other types of benefits.
The project interviewed independent workers to learn more about their unique needs and financial challenges. The interviewed workers noted that obtaining benefit coverage often fell to the bottom of a long list of priorities, but that they are eager for more information on topics like Social Security, tax reporting, etc.
The Benefit U project sheds new light on the barriers independent workers face in accessing financial, health and retirement benefits. The services and resources that will be offered through Benefit U include: paycheck guidance, income tax assistance programs, health insurance navigators, emergency savings and long-term savings, one-on-one training options, and financial education and retirement planning tools—combining available services and products into a comprehensive set of solutions for workers and entrepreneurs.