When does N.J.’s $500 ‘return-to-work’ bonus start? How can businesses get $10K in help?

Published: Sep. 29, 2021

New Jersey’s unemployment rate is 7.2%, down from 7.8% at the start of the year.

Approximately 249,000 people are still collecting benefits in the state while businesses large and small continue to say they’re struggling to find employees.

Some blame the worker shortage on extended unemployment benefits, which ended earlier this month. But many workers say they have other reasons to stay home, including child care issues, health concerns and not wanting to return to a low-paying job.

Gov. Murphy on Monday announced a new program that’s supposed to incentivize both workers and small businesses and help alleviate the hiring dilemma.

Some of the specifics of the plan, dubbed ‘Return and Earn,” have not yet been released, and the Department of Labor said more information will be forthcoming soon.

Here’s what we know so far.

How much of a bonus can workers get?

If you start a job with an employer that has fewer than 100 workers, pays at least $15 an hour and is accepted into the program, you could get a one-time $500 bonus.

How can I get the bonus?

The details are still being worked out by the Department of Labor, which will implement the program and work with employers. Start by finding out if your potential employer has applied and if your position will be eligible.

Do I have to live in New Jersey?

Yes. You’re not eligible if you live out-of-state, even if the employer is in New Jersey.

I already went back to work. Am I eligible?

No. The program will only cover new hires.

I’m a gig worker. Am I eligible?

No. Seasonal, commission-based and 1099 positions are not eligible, the Labor Department said.

I only want to work part-time. Am I eligible?

No. You have to be a full-time employee working at least 32 hours a week to be eligible.

How will I get the money?

The $500 will be paid to the employer, who will then pay the employee, the Labor Department said.

When will I get the money?

It will take several weeks, the Labor Department said.

“The process requires the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to first form a contract with the Garden State employer, and we anticipate the first employees benefiting from the Return and Earn program will receive their incentive in a few weeks,” spokesman Tom Wright said in an email.

I’m a small business. Do I qualify?

Your company must have 100 or fewer employees and pay at least $15 per hour for the jobs you want to fill.

I’m a non-profit. Can my business qualify?

Yes. Both private and not-for-profit employers with up to 100 full-time employees can apply.

I’m a small business. When will the program start?

It’s already started, sort of. The Labor Department is working on the application details.

“Employers can visit NJ.gov/labor/returnandearn to express interest in this program and receive application information as it becomes available,” the agency’s website said.

How will it work?

Many of the details are still being worked out, but the Department of Labor said hundreds of employers have expressed interest already.

The Labor Department website said it is “currently working on the execution of this program, including developing a streamlined online application process.”

“Once we connect with an employer, our Business Support Unit will review eligibility, training criteria, etc., and then form a contract with them,” Wright said.

Businesses can sign up here.

Which employees will be eligible?

The Labor Department said it will work with employers to identify prospective candidates for available positions.

I’m an employer. What can I use the money for?

The program will offer up to $10,000 in subsidies that companies can use for each employee, with a cap of $40,000 in benefits per employer.

Employers who are eligible will be reimbursed for 50% of the wages paid for regular hours worked during the employer-provided training period. Employers can receive the wage subsidy for up to 6 months, the state said.

What kind of training does it have to be?

The Labor Department said it will depend on the circumstances of the position but it will work with employers to make sure it qualifies for the program.

Can I use virtual training because of the pandemic?

Yes. Both in-person and virtual training will be permitted.

How is New Jersey paying for it all?

Funding for the program comes from the federal American Rescue Plan coronavirus aid package, Murphy said.

How long will the program last?

That’s unclear.

The state is capping the program at $10 million, Murphy said, but if there’s high demand, he said he would consider adding more funds.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-09-30 03:16:59 -0700