ALBANY, N.Y. (WKBW) — New York State Senator Ed Rath (R - 61st District) has introduced a bill that would provide eligible New Yorkers with a $1200 bonus for returning to work.
The bill, which can be found here, would repeal the Excluded Workers Fund and establish a return-to-work bonus and employer relief fund to provide anyone returning to work a $1200 bonus. Rath said the person would have to work four weeks before receiving the bonus.
Rath said the bill would prioritize the hiring and re-hiring of employees previously receiving unemployment benefits.
“Getting New Yorkers back to work is one of my top priorities. Businesses are struggling to find workers as the rate of unemployment in the State remains unsustainable. This incentive would benefit both those looking for work and the employers, a win-win for everyone,” said Senator Rath.
According to Rath, the program would be funded by the $2.1 billion set aside for the Excluded Workers fund in the 2021-22 New York State budget.
Other states including Arizona, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma have offered a form of a return to work bonus.
According to numbers from the NYS Department of Labor, New York's April 2021 unemployment rate of 7.8% is more than double the pre-pandemic rate of 3.6% from April 2019.
Some businesses are trying sign-on bonuses of their own.
Glen Park Tavern Co-Owner Ellie Grenauer said she's down three full-time kitchen employees, meaning the restaurant can't open everyday like Grenauer wants it to.
She's offering a $500 signing bonus, and $500 for employees who recruit new staff. Employees would receive the bonus after eight weeks of work.
7 Eyewitness News asked if she was surprised by the low response.
"Yeah I was really surprised, I think we got one application, which didn't lead anywhere," Grenauer said.
Grenauer said she hopes a $1,200 incentive from the state would work.
Tops Friendly Markets is offering $2,000 signing bonuses for some warehouse positions, and $2,500 for CDL drivers. Human Resources Manager Jeremy Maciejewski said it's a traditionally competitive market.
“The sign-on bonus will at least get eyes and attract people in, and what we’re hoping is they like the job, they enjoy the job," Maciejewski said.
On the retail side, the company is offering bonuses to current employees who bring in associates.
Buffalo Niagara Partnership President/CEO Dottie Gallagher said there are hiring challenge in all industries, due to reasons such as a skill gap that started before the pandemic, people retiring, and remote school for children.
“I think people who are not working because of unemployment insurance, those are generally low waged workers and part time workers, or people who are gonna have to work a full-time minimum wage and they can make almost as much being at home as they can working,” Gallagher said.
She believes that will come to a natural end when federal unemployment benefits expire in September, and added that businesses used sign-on bonuses prior to the pandemic.
“What is the singular thing that could have the biggest impact, it would be kids going back to school full time, and parents knowing that that was a solid situation so they could plan accordingly," Gallagher said.
The return to work bonus bill is in committee. The legislative session is set to end in less than two weeks.