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New hires could get $500 stipend under new Virginia program

The program will target small businesses with 100 or fewer employees that are paying new hires at least $15 an hour.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this Wednesday Nov 18, 2020. file photo, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam gestures during a COVID-19 briefing at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. Virginia lawmakers are set to start this year’s legislative session focused on COVID-19 relief efforts and legalizing marijuana. The 2021 session will kick off Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021 with lawmakers meeting away from the Capitol as the state continues to wrestle with the impacts of a global pandemic that’s shut down school, closed businesses and left more than 5,000 Virginians dead in last 10 months, including a state senator. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Gov. Ralph Northam unveiled a new grant program Friday that would match stipends of up to $500 for new hires at small businesses.

It's called the Return to Earn program and is aimed at getting Virginians back to work--and also help small businesses struggling to fill vacant positions.

Northam said, “We will keep working everything we can to support businesses and their employees and all Virginians who are still struggling to as we move toward.”

It will match cash stipends of up to $500 that businesses can give to new hires to help them transition back to work.

The program will target small businesses with 100 or fewer employees that are paying new hires at least $15 an hour.

“Many Virginians who lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic still face a variety of barriers to returning to work like access to affordable child care, transportation, and a living wage,” said Governor Northam. “These bonuses will serve as an incentive for unemployed workers to get back into the workforce while also helping employers fill vacant jobs."

The payment can be given to the employee through a lump sum when he or she is hired or in installments to offset the costs of child care or transportation.

“That will make a difference to a lot of people and will help them overcome some of the issues that are keeping them out of the workforce,” said Northam.

The announcement took place at Harvest on Atlantic Avenue at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.

Mayor Bobby Dyer and Rep. Elaine Luria were also in attendance at the news conference.

Dyer said many small businesses especially at the Oceanfront are struggling to hire people. He said he's excited for this new program to help them.

Some oceanfront business owners and managers said they hate the new incentive.

“I think that’s absurd,” explained Mahi’s manager Kristopher Stanley.

Mahi’s manager Kristopher Stanley and several others said it’s unfair to the employees who have worked throughout the pandemic.

Stanley said, “I’m a restaurant manager and the majority of my shift, I wash dishes.”

Stanley said people are applying for a job at his business, but they don’t want to work.

“We call back and do call backs everyday but nobody will come back to us because they know as long as they are applying for jobs they will still get their employment,” Stanley said.

Northam said it’s hard to make everyone happy.

The state will also give people $500 if they get a job in childcare if the job pays $15 an hour.