Return-To-Work Bonus : An Alternative To Unemployment Benefits

After shutting down for a long time, businesses across the United States have finally reopened. However, the firms are facing trouble in getting people to work for them due to two major reasons—(1) people are scared they would contract the virus while working, (2) the unemployment benefits received under the pandemic relief package is much more than they would earn if they worked. 

To encourage people to return to work, many states are planning to stop the additional $300 weekly unemployment benefits, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). Instead, they are willing to roll out a return-to-work bonus. 

Which States Are Planning To Give A Return-To-Work Bonus?

States that are planning to give a return-to-work bonus include: 

1. Arizona

On May 13, 2021, Governor Doug Ducey announced that Arizona would stop giving the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefit. “In Arizona, we’re going to use federal money to encourage people to work…instead of paying people not to work,” stated Ducey.

The state plans to use $300 million in federal funds to encourage residents to return to work full-time or part-time work. Those returning to full-time work between May 13, 2021 and  September 6, 2021 will receive a $2,000 bonus. Whereas, residents returning part-time will receive a $1,000 bonus. 

The return-to-work bonus will be given only to those Arizonians who meet a certain set of conditions. They include:

  • Residents must have already filed for unemployment benefits 
  • Residents must earn less than $25 an hour

2. Montana 

Montana will give a one-time $1,200 return-to-work bonus to residents returning to work. Governor Greg Gianforte stated, “Incentives matter, and the vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits is now doing more harm than good.” He further added, “We need to incentivize Montanans to reenter the workforce.”

The state will allocate $15 million for this initiative. The bonus will be given on a first-come, first-served basis. To qualify for return-to-work bonus, residents must meet following criteria:

  • Must have had an active unemployment claim as of May 4, 2021
  • Must accept a suitable job offer
  • Must complete at least four full weeks of paid employment

3. Connecticut 

Connecticut is not ending the extra $300 weekly unemployment benefits, instead it is adding the return-to-work bonus as an additional benefit.

Governor Ned Lamont announced that the state will provide a one-time $1,000 bonus to 10,000 long-term unemployed people. “The program is designed to encourage long-term unemployed individuals to find work,” Lamont said in a statement. “This is the latest tool in our toolbox to maximize our state’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic,” he further added. 

To be eligible for return-to-work bonus, residents must meet the following conditions:

  • Residents must have filed an unemployment claim for the week immediately prior to May 30, 2021
  • Residents must find and maintain a full-time job for eight consecutive weeks before the year end, and must not receive UI benefits when they are employed

4. Oklahoma 

Oklahoma will offer a $1,200 bonus to residents to return to work. Payments will begin dispersing the second week in July 2021. Governor Stitt stated, “Since our state has been open for business since last June, the biggest challenge facing Oklahoma businesses today is not reopening, it’s finding employees. 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.”

The return-to-work bonus will be given to residents who:

  • Received PUA, PEUC or traditional unemployment benefits between May 2, 2021 and May 15, 2021
  • Complete six consecutive weeks of employment at 32 hours per week or more with the same employer

5. New Hampshire 

New Hampshire is set to end additional unemployment benefits on June 19, 2021. Governor Chris Sununu announced a new $10 million program that provides a bonus to people who return to work. Part-time employees will receive a $500 bonus, and full-time employees can receive a $1,000 bonus. To qualify for the program, residents must:

  • Work for eight weeks or more
  • Earn at least $25 or less an hour

“The process is actually fairly simple,” Sununu said. “That we’re committing $10 million to the bonuses, and eight weeks from today, the application process will begin, so you have to show that you’ve worked for those eight consecutive weeks. Then, the application process will begin, so it’s kind of a first-come, first-served,” stated Governor Chris Sununu. 

Closing Thoughts 

If everything goes as expected, the retire-to-work bonus will entice people back to work and help businesses, and thereby the economy grows. Let’s wait and see how many more states opt for this initiative and end all other federal pandemic benefits.  


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