On Wednesday’s Montana Morning News show, Governor Greg Gianforte and Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry Laurie Esau introduced new bonus programs for those who had been receiving unemployment benefits.

“We're excited to roll this program out that Montana is open for business,” said Gianforte. “But we've been hearing from too many businesses that they just can't find workers. It has hit every single industry; healthcare, construction, manufacturing, hospitality and leisure. Some restaurants have had to close a couple days a week because they just don't have any staff.”

Gianforte said the incentives to return to work are generous.

“The reality is that incentives matter,” he said. “The federal unemployment benefits that were put in place during the pandemic were doing more harm than good. People could make more money not working than going to work, so that's why yesterday, we were the first state in the country to announce that we're going to end participation in the pandemic related unemployment benefits. We're going to go back to the unemployment benefits that were in place pre pandemic.”

Gianforte also introduced another back-to-work program.

“We're also launching a back to work bonus,” he said. “So if someone was on unemployment on May 4th, and they go to work for four weeks, they're going to get a $1,200 check. So many Montanans have been working extra shifts. They've been working late to cover because they can't hire people. We need to get a few people off the bench and get them back to work.”

Commissioner Esau cited some examples of businesses that are looking for employees for the spring and summer.

“We hear every day from employers from Steve's Cafe in Helena to Caras Nursery in Missoula that they cannot find workers, and so we've tried to figure out the best solution to help the employers help employees that are currently working like the governor just mentioned,” said Esau. It’s an incentive for people to get paid to go back to work versus getting paid to stay home.”

Esau also provided some real numbers now occurring in the state.

“Because we're paying people to stay home, and there's 25,000 people currently on unemployment, and we have 15,000 of those are on the pandemic unemployment,” she said. “At this point, we have over 14,000 jobs open in the state that we know of that are listed with our department, so that's really what we're after is trying to help fill those positions.”

Starting June 27, those who have exhausted their traditional benefits will no longer be eligible to receive the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program. The Return to Work bonus initiative will offer $1,200 payments to individuals receiving unemployment benefits who then accept employment and complete at least four weeks of work.

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