In Brief

State program to tackle labor shortage has helped 60 N.J. businesses

By: - November 24, 2021 7:09 am

A Now Hiring sign at a Dunkin’ restaurant on September 21, 2021. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

About 3,700 businesses have reached out to the state about the “Return and Earn” program, which offers subsidies for businesses to train new workers and award them signing bonuses, according to the Department of Labor.

Sixty contracts have been signed, committing nearly $500,000 to those businesses, the Labor Department said in a statement.

Labor spokeswoman Angela Delli-Santi called this a “promising beginning.”

“We anticipate this being a robust program that helps our businesses and workforce flourish,” Delli-Santi said in an email to the New Jersey Monitor.

The $10 million program launched in September. Employers can pay up to $500 in hiring bonuses and can claim $40,000 for training workers who are new to the industry.

The first contracts were signed within the first two weeks, and the first recipient received funding about a month ago, Delli-Santi said. Participating businesses are from various industries, she said, ranging from dental assistants to child care to manufacturing.

Gov. Phil Murphy touted the program during a press briefing Monday, highlighting MaxFlight Corporation, a Toms River-based interactive flight simulator company and one of the first businesses to reach out to the Labor Department abut the program. He said the company used the funds to hire a new employee and offer a hiring bonus.

“Our goal is not just to get folks into a good job but into a successful career,” said Murphy.

The program is expected to help between 1,200 and 1,500 workers, Delli-Santi added. For businesses to be eligible for the subsidies, they must pay at least $15 an hour, offer full-time positions, and have less than 100 employees.

Economists and business leaders have said they don’t expect this program to make a huge dent in the stubbornly high unemployment rate, which at 7% is the second highest in the nation. 

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.