A program that offers incentives of up to $1,500 to eligible people who get new jobs is being extended, after a smaller-than-expected response.

The pandemic put a record number of Mainers on unemployment. Now, a variety of barriers have prevented many of them from getting new jobs, including childcare, concern about COVID, and the fact that added federal unemployment money made staying home more profitable. The result has been challenging for local business owners, who are having a tough time hiring enough help to stay open. More than one local restaurant, for example, has had to limit their hours because they just don't have enough employees to cover all the shifts.

The Maine Department of Labor responded to the crisis with the 'Back to Work' program in June, which offered up to $1,500 to new hires. There were a few qualifiers to collecting the money, including maintaining employment at the new job for at least 8 weeks. The aim was to encourage more residents to get off unemployment and...well....back to work. But the response has been less than anticipated.

Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, said in a media release that approximately 400 businesses sent in applications, about half of which were from small business owners.

Maine, like all states, is confronting a workforce shortage worsened by the pandemic, and we are pleased we were able to provide this tool alongside our other efforts to help get people back to work. We remain committed to finding solutions to the barriers that remain to families returning to work.

Businesses now have until August 20, 2021, to submit applications for people hired between June 15t and July 25, 2021. Johnson says it's important that businesses understand an employee does not have to complete the 8 weeks before the application can be submitted. If submitted now, the employee will be considered 'provisionally eligible.'

After August 20, the Back to Work program will close and no new applications will be considered.

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The Highest Paying Jobs In The Augusta / Waterville Area

These salary estimates are courtesy of the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. They are current as of April of 2020.