A growing number of states are offering a one-time cash bonus to Americans who return to the workforce – part of a broader initiative designed to help businesses that are struggling to hire new employees.
At least four Republican-led states – Arizona, Montana, New Hampshire and Oklahoma – will give workers up to $2,000 when they accept a new job. The initiative is in lieu of the federal unemployment program that provided out-of-work Americans with an extra $300 a week, on top of their regular state benefits.
"In Arizona, we’re going to use federal money to encourage people to work instead of paying people not to work," Gov. Doug Ducey said last week.
Arizona, Montana, New Hampshire and Oklahoma are among the 23 states that have announced they will prematurely end the federal jobless aid program, which is not slated to expire until Sept. 6, 2021.
The new measures come in light of the Labor Department's April payroll report, which revealed the economy added just 266,000 jobs last month – sharply missing the 1 million forecast by Refinitiv economists. GOP lawmakers were quick to blame the extra unemployment aid for the lackluster job growth, although experts have also cited a lack of child care and fears of contracting COVID-19 for the hiring shortage.
The average state unemployment benefit is about $330 per week. With the federal supplement, Americans are receiving about $630 in weekly unemployment benefits. (For comparison's sake, that's about $32,000 annually, or roughly double the nation's minimum wage.)
There remain about 8.2 million fewer jobs than there were in February 2020, before the pandemic shut down broad swaths of the nation's economy.
Take a closer look at the return-to-work incentives in each state:
Arizona – which will end the extra $300-a-week jobless benefit on July 10 – will use the remaining money to set up a cash return-to-work program.
Eligible people who go back to work full-time will receive a one-time bonus of $2,000, while those returning part-time will receive $1,000. Once an individual works 10 weeks at their new job, they will receive the money.
To qualify, individuals must earn $25 an hour or less and begin working by Labor Day. Anyone who applies for jobless aid after May 13 will not qualify.
The sweetened jobless aid will end in Montana on June 27, but the state will instead provide a $1,200 return-to-work bonus that individuals will be eligible to receive after a month on the job.
"Incentives matter, and the vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits is now doing more harm than good," Gov. Greg Gianforte said in a statement. "We need to incentivize Montanans to reenter the workforce."
Anyone who was receiving unemployment benefits before May 4 is eligible for the bonus. They must work for at least for weeks in order to qualify.
New Hampshire will stop paying the supplemental unemployment benefit on June 19 – but anyone who finds a job this summer could still see some extra cash.
Individuals who work full-time for eight weeks could receive $1,000, while part-time workers could receive up to $500.
Workers who earn $25 an hour or less are eligible.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Monday that boosted unemployment benefits will end on June 26. But the state will instead create a $1,200 return-to-work incentive with the remaining federal money.
"For Oklahoma to become a Top Ten state, workforce participation must be at a top level and I am committed to doing what I can to help Oklahomans get off the sidelines and into the workforce," Stitt said.
Workers who received unemployment benefits between May 2 and May 15 are eligible for the bonus. They must work at least six consecutive weeks to receive the money.