Virginians can receive return-to-work bonuses

Virginians can receive return-to-work bonuses

June 14, 2021 0 By Tyler Arnold

To incentivize Virginians returning to the workforce as the COVID-19 restrictions are coming to an end, Virginia will match bonuses of up to $500 for new hires for eligible small businesses.

The pilot program, called the Return to Earn Grant Program, will cost about $3 million of federal relief money allocated to the state. To be eligible, the small business must hire the person at the wage of $15 per hour or higher. A business will be eligible if it has fewer than 100 employees and might not have the resources to provide a large enough bonus itself.

Child care businesses will be eligible for $500 without the requirement to match the government funding.

Funding will be available for new hires after May 31. The bonus can be paid as a lump sum or installments to offset the costs of child care, transportation or other barrier to employment. Employees who work full time or part time will be eligible.

“Many Virginians who lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic still face a variety of barriers to returning to work like access to affordable child care, transportation, and a living wage,” Northam said in a statement. “These bonuses will serve as an incentive for unemployed workers to get back into the workforce while also helping employers fill vacant jobs. The Virginia Return to Earn Grant Program is about empowering the true catalysts of our economic comeback—Virginia’s workers and small businesses.”

Some Republican lawmakers had called for a back-to-work bonus, which would have operated differently. In their plan, the state would have stopped providing $300 per week in supplemental unemployment benefits and would instead direct that money toward a bonus for new hires. The Republican plan would not have required businesses to match contributions.

Senate Republican leaders Tommy Norment, R-James City and Stephen Newman, R-Bedford released a joint statement criticizing the governor’s approach. They said the governor should have called a special session to act on the Republican plan.

“Requiring businesses to pay bonuses to participate, and mandating a higher wage rate if they do, will result in a limited number of businesses availing themselves of this program,” Norment and Newman said. “By continuing the $300 per week supplemental unemployment payments, the Governor’s proposal places these state bonuses in competition with the federal government’s, doing little to encourage many to return to the workforce.”

For the week ending May 31, Virginia brought back its work search requirement for unemployment benefit applicants to encourage returning to work. On June 1, the state reopened the Virginia Career Works Center for in-person services.

The NFIB, the largest small business association, has said many businesses have job openings now that the restrictions have eased, but have had trouble finding workers.

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