By Christian Wade | The Center Square
Gov. Chris Sununu is pulling New Hampshire out of federal pandemic unemployment programs, including a $300 per week benefit, as the state looks to bring workers back to fill vacant jobs.
Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Sununu said the state will end its participation in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and other federal jobless programs on June 19, giving jobless workers a month to prepare for the changes.
To entice workers back to their jobs, Sununu said the state is offering $500 to $1,000 bonuses for individuals who get a job and keep it for at least eight weeks.
“Moving forward, our focus will continue to be on getting people back to work,” Sununu said. “We have plenty of jobs and we want folks to get back out there.”
Under the new program, New Hampshire will dole out $10 million in bonuses, with $500 going to part-time workers and $1,000 for people who accept full-time work, Sununu said.
Sununu noted that New Hampshire was one of the first states to accept the federal unemployment benefits, which he said were “essential” to sustaining Granite Staters financially as businesses were shut down to prevent spread of the virus.
But with the state’s COVID-19 cases declining, sizable numbers of people vaccinated, and employers desperate for new hires, the time was right to leave the programs, he said.
By doing so, New Hampshire joins a growing number of states ditching the $300 per week per benefit as they try to lure workers who have been idled for more than a year back to their jobs.
The state has paid out more than $1.8 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits since mid-March, when the COVID-19 outbreak began.
New Hampshire’s jobless rate dropped to 2.8% in May, Sununu said Tuesday, one of the lowest rates in the nation.
Despite that, employers are having a hard time finding workers to fill vacancies as they try to staff up for the tourist season, with the state fully reopened for business.
Many employers have complained that the $300 per week federal benefit – which comes on top of state jobless payments – means some workers are taking home more money collecting unemployment than they would on the job.
Last week, Sununu said he was bringing back a work search requirement for jobless beneficiaries, which mandates that workers regularly search for work to continue getting benefits.
“Our economic recovery is outpacing the region and the country,” he said Tuesday. “And that means there are frankly tens of thousands of high paying jobs available today.”