As employers continue to cite a labor shortage market, Rep. Josh Gottheimer is proposing a back-to-work bonus for those currently receiving unemployment with monies from the American Rescue Plan.
Gottheimer wants to offer a one-time incentive of $500 for residents who are currently unemployed, if they start a job by Aug. 1 and maintain employment through at least Sept. 1.
“It’s absolutely essential to connect unemployed Jersey workers with businesses in need and encourage workers to return to the workplace,” said Gottheimer at a press conference at the Empress Diner in Fair Lawn June 14. “As we transition from pandemic life to normal life, like so many businesses, they aren’t able to find the staff, just yet, that they need to be fully operational.”
Tight Labor Market
The congressman believes the bonus would help “get more Jersey residents back to work, will help local businesses stay afloat and get them the staff they desperately need to fully function, will set both our families and businesses up for success in our post-COVID economy, and will help Jersey and our economy fully rebound.”
Gottheimer used the Empress Diner as an example of employers being impacted because they are unable to find enough workers. Before the pandemic, the River Road diner had twenty employees and was open twenty-four hours a day; now it only employs a staff of twelve and had to cut its hours in half.
“I’ve personally spoken to numerous small businesses, restaurants, and diners that are all having hiring issues,” he said. “It’s also absolutely essential to connect workers with good-paying jobs and help them fully support their families.”
Program Already Launched
Gottheimer said the U.S. Treasury has confirmed that back-to-work incentives are eligible expenses for state’s receiving COVID-19 relief funds, citing Connecticut and Colorado currently implementing similar incentive programs. However, getting the new program up and running will not happen right away.
“I recognize that instituting such a program will take time, but I believe that this one-time incentive would really help New Jersey residents as they re-enter the workforce, and will help our businesses like this one get back to normal operations,” said the congressman.
Gov. Phil Murphy called the $500 bonus “a good idea” and noted he had personally heard from a friend who’s got a restaurant of the difficulties in finding workers.
Actively Searching Enforcement
The governor believed the tightness in the labor market was a combination of factors, including the $300 dollar temporary unemployment benefit, the inability to find childcare, and residents using the last 15 months to use this as an opportunity to upsell themselves into a different career lane.
“I told Josh that I’m open minded to considering anything we can to allow the labor force to catch up to what is clearly a recovery right now,” said Murphy.
Additionally, Gottheimer requested the state’s Department of Labor continue to enforce the requirement that workers receiving unemployment benefits are actively searching for work and enhance the department’s career services system “so that those able to fill available jobs have adequate resources to assist in their search.”