Gov. Chris Sununu (left) on Tuesday announced the end of the extra federal unemployment benefit and the beginning of a stipend program for those who return to work. (WMUR screenshot)
Gov. Chris Sununu said Tuesday he will end the extra federal unemployment benefits on June 19, including the $300 weekly payment being collected by nearly 35,500 people in the state.
He also announced he has set aside $10 million to pay stipends of $500 and $1,000 to people who come off unemployment and get a job they keep for at least eight consecutive weeks.
Sununu said last month he would be setting gradual restrictions on unemployment benefits, beginning with a May 23 return of the job-search requirement for anyone receiving unemployment.
“Moving forward, our focus will continue to be on getting people back to work,” Sununu said. “There are many opportunities here . . . in a variety of different industries. So plenty of jobs and we want folks to get back out there.”
Sununu said there are currently nearly 14,240 job listings in New Hampshire and a 2.7 percent unemployment rate. COVID-19-related health concerns should no longer keep people from working, he said.
“If folks are concerned about re-entering the workplace because of COVID, go get vaccinated,” he said. “I mean, that’s what the vaccine’s for. It’s a key mitigation measure. If you’re not willing to get vaccinated and you’re still concerned about re-entering the workforce. . . . If not now, then when?”
The stipends, which will be paid for with federal pandemic aid, will be awarded first come, first served until the $10 million is gone. Part-time workers will receive a $500 bonus. Full-timers will get $1,000. The stipends are available only to people who earn less than $25 an hour. State unemployment benefits will remain available.
Employers who are struggling to hire enough workers to reopen have blamed federal unemployment benefits, which make up most of the more than $1.82 billion in unemployment benefits the state has paid during the pandemic.
Others have said low wages and little to no health benefits are behind hiring challenges.
“Everyone is looking to hire,” Sununu said. “Wages are starting in some cases at $15 or $20 per hour. It’s really an awesome opportunity for our citizens to get back to work and be economically successful for themselves and their family.”
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