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Some Virginians worry incentive program won't do enough to encourage employees

Posted at 11:29 PM, Jun 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-14 23:29:56-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Gov. Ralph Northam is hoping that a new incentive program will help get people off unemployment and back into the workforce. However, some worry that the program won't be enough.

"Yeah, it's been a tough time for all of us," Matt Cummings said.

Over the past year, Cummings worked as the general manager at Carytown Burgers and Fries.

"We just can't get the cooks in," Cummings said.

With limited cooks available, managers are stepping up to help in the kitchen.

While the owner has changed the payroll to make tip-sharing equitable, it has remained difficult to attract workers.

"At this point, we'd probably take any type of incentive program to help us get employees in," Cummings said.

On Friday, Gov. Northam announced a $3 million pilot program that will provide $1,000 to Virginians to return to the workforce. The "Return To Earn" program will match cash stipends of up to $500 that businesses can give to new hires to help them transition back to work.

However, the program will only serve businesses with less than 100 employees who are paying $15 per hour.

"The request that only jobs paying $15 an hour when our state's minimum wage is $9.50 probably won't be that impactful in getting folks back to work," Cummings said.

Eric Terry with the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association said the $300 in federal unemployment benefits is preventing some potential workers from filling positions.

While the program is set to run through Labor Day, some states are doing away with the enhanced coverage before July.

Terry believes that unless Gov. Northam makes the same decision, Virginia's "Return To Earn" program won't make a big difference.

"Look what's being given, the $300 in federal supplements and base it on a program like that. That program is scheduled to expire in September. You just back into those numbers, it's kind of what we're up against. They have to come relatively close to what they're receiving under that program to get folks to work," Terry said.

The "Return To Earn" program will also give $500 to people who choose to take a job in childcare paying at least $15 an hour.