No state has shown a foolproof plan for getting people to return to work — whether the attempt has involved financial incentives to return or pulling supplemental financial payments for those out of work.
Gov. Phil Murphy is hoping the Return & Earn program the state introduced Monday can change that.
The program provides $500 for workers — and up to $10,000 in wage subsidies to employers to help cover retraining costs.
For Murphy, combining a financial incentive with a workforce development component is something that differentiates the New Jersey plan from other efforts.
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“We think cash on the barrel alone is interesting, but it’s even more interesting when you put a workforce development and upskill component to it,” he said Monday.
Facilitated by the business support unit at the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development, employers can take advantage of New Jersey’s existing on-the-job training infrastructure to provide wage reimbursement support to New Jersey employers that hire eligible applicants with identifiable skills gaps.
Employers will then be reimbursed for 50% of the wages paid for regular hours worked during the contracted employer-provided training period.
Employers can receive the wage subsidy for up to 6 months, up to the cap of $10,000 per Return & Earn employee, and are limited to a total Return & Earn subsidy across all employees of $40,000.
NJDOL is currently working on the execution of this program, including developing a streamlined online application process. The general process and eligibility criteria are as follows:
- NJDOL will work with employers to identify prospective candidates for available positions;
- The employer will provide substantive On-the-Job Training at its location or, depending on circumstances, utilize approved virtual training, that results in skill badges or industry-recognized credentials;
- Eligible applicants are private and not-for-profit employers with up to 100 full-time employees;
- Candidates must be New Jersey residents working full-time (minimum 32 hours per week);
- Seasonal, part-time, commission-based or 1099 positions are not eligible.
Murphy gave an example of how he hopes the program will work, saying someone making $12 an hour would be able to train for a job that pays much more.
“This is hopefully some way to accelerate that process — and get those matches made between the openings of the folks who are either unemployed or want to upskill themselves to a different and better job,” he said.
Murphy said the jobs are out there — it’s just a matter of making a match.
“I haven’t been in a restaurant, a bar, a small business, literally not one where folks said they couldn’t hire the folks they want to hire,” he said. “And, at the same time, you’ve got a lot of folks over here, who may be looking for work, may have made a life decision, there’s a whole combination of reasons why you’ve got this mismatch.”
Murphy said the program would start as a pilot, using $10 million in funds that the state received from the American Rescue Plan.
“We’re pretty excited about it,” he said. “We’re going to put $10 million into it and get it off the ground and see what the uptake is — and if it is as significant as we anticipated, maybe we’ll find ways to amp that up.”