Maine labor officials are expanding a popular cash bonus program as the state tries to ease a pressing post-pandemic hiring crunch.
The “Back to Work” initiative, rolled out by Gov. Janet Mills in June, is aimed at filling tens of thousands of vacant jobs as the state’s busy summer tourist season gets underway.
The program initially provided a one-time, $1,500 payment for eligible workers who started new jobs between June 15 and June 30, and $1,000 for eligible workers who start jobs this month. But state labor officials have modified the plan to provide the $1,500 payments to anyone who gets a job from June 15 to July 25, when the program ends.
“By extending the $1,500 grant through the end of the program, we hope that more employers are able to offer this payment to their newly hired employees,” Revenue Commissioner Laura Fortman said in a statement.
The program will now also retroactively cover part-time employees who are working at least 20 hours a week for a single employer and no longer receiving unemployment benefits. Those workers will receive $750 under the updated program.
Fortman said the changes were prompted by feedback from workers who were putting in “too many hours to be eligible for unemployment benefits, but not enough hours to be considered full time.”
To qualify for the bonuses, 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.
Mills has taken other steps to lure workers back to their jobs amid a shortage of labor, including a reinstituted 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 those who get vaccinated the chance to win up to $1 million in cash or a college scholarship.
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.
And New Hampshire is offering $1,000 bonuses for full-time workers and $500 for part-time work. Jobs must pay $25 or less an hour to qualify.
This article was originally posted on Maine expands ‘back to work’ incentive program