Gianforte pulls Montana out of COVID federal unemployment programs, touts 'return to work' bonuses
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Gianforte announced the move to pull his state out of federal pandemic-related unemployment assistance programs and returning to the "pre-pandemic" unemployment eligibility requirements by the end of June in a press release Tuesday.
"Montana is open for business again, but I hear from too many employers throughout our state who can’t find workers," Gianforte said in a press release. "Nearly every sector in our economy faces a labor shortage."
"Incentives matter, and the vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits is now doing more harm than good," the governor continued. "We need to incentivize Montanans to reenter the workforce."
"Our return-to-work bonus and the return to pre-pandemic unemployment programs will help get more Montanans back to work," he added.
The Montana governor also shared the announcement on Twitter, repeating his warning that Montana is facing a labor shortage.
According to the governor’s press release, the "Return to Work" bonus is a $1,200 payment to Montanans receiving unemployment benefits as of Tuesday.
Gianforte’s announcement pulls Montana out of the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance federal assistance programs. Montana is the first state to pull out of federal COVID-19 unemployment assistance programs.
The money used for the "Return to Work" bonuses comes from the funds allocated through President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. An individual must "accept and maintain steady employment for at least one month" to be eligible for the payment.
Additionally, state residents who continued to receive unemployment benefits after exhausting them due to the COVID-19 pandemic through the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program will no longer receive the payments.
Those seeking unemployment benefits must be able, available and looking for work to be eligible.
"Individuals eligible for the bonus will be contacted by the Department of Labor and Industry and informed of their eligibility, as well as more information about how to ensure they receive the payment after they complete four weeks of employment," the release states.