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Gov. Murphy announces ‘Return and Earn’ incentive program

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Gov. Phil Murphy has announced that the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) will begin implementation of the “Return and Earn” program.

This new initiative will provide a $500 incentive for unemployed workers re-entering the workforce and receiving job training from businesses with 100 or fewer employees, according to a press release from Murphy’s office.

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“Throughout this (coronavirus) pandemic, I have heard much about the issues facing small businesses and the dedicated, hard-working men and women who enable their success,” Murphy was quoted as saying in the press release.

“Our administration is committed to assist businesses in hiring workers, while providing benefits to those entering and re-entering the workforce that will set them up for success in their new jobs and their future careers. This program will help both businesses and their workers, and is yet another step we have taken to boost our economy,” Murphy said.

Facilitated by NJDOL’s Business Support Unit, “Return and Earn” will 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, according to the press release.

Employers can receive the wage subsidy for up to six months, up to the cap of $10,000 per “Return and Earn” employee, and are limited to a total “Return and Earn” subsidy across all employees of $40,000.

NJDOL is working on the execution of the 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 their location or, depending on circumstances, use approved virtual training, that result 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.

Additionally, many workers will be eligible for supportive services like childcare and transportation reimbursement, according to the press release.

More information will be issued by NJDOL in the coming days. Employers can visit NJ.gov/labor/returnandearn to express interest in the program and receive application information as it becomes available.

The “Return and Earn” program is being executed in collaboration with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and the Office of Innovation, according to the press release.

“The New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce supports Gov. Phil Murphy’s ‘Return and Earn’ program,” said Tom Bracken, president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.

“The chamber is gratified the Governor has responded to our requests that more American Rescue Plan dollars be invested in the state’s business community to help accelerate our economic recovery.

“The ‘Return and Earn’ program not only provides financial incentives for workers to return to the workforce, it provide crucial skills training that can result in longer-term employment and more opportunity for these workers.

“The chamber continues to believe that additional investment of American Rescue Plan dollars in business-focused programs like these will generate a more robust and sustainable economic recovery in New Jersey,” Bracken sad.

“The ‘Return and Earn’ program represents the beginning of an opportunity to provide job training while helping employers incentivize workers to come back to the workplace,” said Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

“This program is a good start to address the workforce challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and we look forward to working toward continued holistic approaches to further address the future of work in New Jersey,” Siekerka said.

This $500 “Return and Earn” incentive and on-the-job training subsidy will be funded by $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds. Additional related supportive services will be funded by Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act funds, according to the press release.

New Jersey job seekers can visit CareerServices.nj.gov for help finding gainful employment opportunities.

NJDOL offers a wide variety of programs including job search help, résumé and interview guidance, networking advice, education and training, one-on-one support, and services tailored specifically to veterans, mature workers, youth workers, individuals in recovery, justice-involved individuals and people with disabilities. These services are available telephonically, online and via smartphone, according to the press release.

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