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Virginia Governor Announces Return to Earn Grant Program

On June 11, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced a new pilot program as an incentive to bring employees back to the workforce following the covid-19 pandemic.

The governor’s new $3 million Return to Earn Grant Program will match payments from eligible small businesses to provide new employees with up to a $1,000 bonus to help with their transition back to work.

The Return to Earn Grant program will serve those small businesses with less than 100 employees who may not have the resources to provide this financial support.

“Many Virginians who lost their jobs as a result of the covid-19 pandemic still face a variety of barriers to returning to work, like access to affordable child care, transportation, and a living wage,” said Governor Northam.“These bonuses will serve as an incentive for unemployed workers to get back into the workforce while also helping employers fill vacant jobs. The Virginia Return to Earn Grant Program is about empowering the true catalysts of our economic comeback—Virginia’s workers and small businesses.”

The program will match up to $500 that a qualifying small business pays directly to a new employee hired after May 31, 2021, either as a lump sum or in installments to offset the ongoing costs of child care, transportation, or other barriers to re-employment. Funds will only be reimbursed to businesses for new hires in positions that pay at least $15 per hour and that qualify as W-2 employment, either full- or part-time. To help address workforce shortages in child care, qualifying child care businesses may qualify for up to $500 per new hire without the match requirement.

“For Virginia to fully recover from the impacts of the pandemic on our economy, we need targeted solutions,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Dr. Megan Healy. “One in three Virginia workers has applied for unemployment benefits over the course of the pandemic. The new Return to Earn Grant Program will accomplish a dual purpose of helping unemployed Virginians transition back into living wage jobs, particularly in the child care industry, and supporting small businesses with their hiring needs.”

The initial launch of the Return to Earn Grant program is being funded in part through Virginia’s federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

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