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Maine dangles cash bonuses to help ease hiring crunch

Maine has become the latest state to offer cash incentives to workers who return to their jobs amid a post-pandemic hiring crunch.

On Tuesday, Gov. Janet Mills unveiled the “Back to Work” initiative that she said is aimed at filling tens of thousands of vacant jobs as the state’s busy summer tourist season gets underway.

“COVID cases are down, vaccines are widely available, and jobs are plentiful,” Mills said in a statement. “Employers across the state are looking to staff up, which means there are opportunities for everyone to work, earn a living and contribute to our state’s economic recovery.”

The plan will provide a one-time, $1,500 payment for eligible workers who begin new jobs between June 15 and June 30, and $1,000 for eligible workers who start jobs in July.

To qualify, workers must have received unemployment compensation as recently as the week ending May 29 and accept a full-time job that pays less than $25 per hour.

They must keep the job for at least eight weeks — and not claim state or federal unemployment benefits — to get the cash bonus.

Laura Fortman, commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor, said the new program is aimed at helping employers fill jobs and encouraging workers to return to the labor market.

“We recognize that as the economy continues to improve, there are still barriers preventing some Mainers from going back to work and we want to help get them back to work,” she said.

The program begins this week and applications will be accepted through July 25, according to the Maine Department of Labor. The state agency said it will be launching an online portal where businesses can verify new hires and their start dates.

The new initiative was welcomed by several business groups which say it will help solve a hiring crunch that is holding back the state’s post pandemic recovery.

David Clough, state director of the Maine chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, said the move will benefit small businesses looking to staff up.

“After a challenging year, small employers are getting back up on their feet and looking to hire hardworking Maine people and pay them good wages in rewarding jobs,” he said.

Mills has taken other steps in recent weeks to lure workers back to their jobs amid a shortage of labor, including re-instituting a work search requirement mandating that individuals receiving jobless benefits actively look for work and accept positions for which they are “reasonably qualified.” Those who refuse to accept an offer can lose their unemployment benefits.

Several other states and cities as well as businesses have offered vaccine prizes, as well, from cash to college savings bonds, concert tickets and subway vouchers.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker has rolled out a “VaxMillions Giveaway,” which offers Bay Staters who get fully vaccinated the chance to win up to $1 million in cash or a college scholarship. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom is offering individuals who get their vaccine shots a chance to win one of six “dream vacations” including tickets to Disneyland.

This article was originally posted on Maine dangles cash bonuses to help ease hiring crunch

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