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Gov. Little unveils more details on Idaho return to work bonuses

The state is trying to encourage workers, who may be making more on unemployment than their regular wages, to return to work.

BOISE, Idaho — Gov. Brad Little on Wednesday released more details on Idaho's return to work bonuses, an effort to encourage workers to return to their jobs.

In addition to state unemployment benefits, laid off or furloughed workers receive a $600 per week federal bonus through the CARES Act. And because of that additional funding, many workers who have been unable to work during the coronavirus pandemic make more money while unemployed than they did while working.

That is why, Little said, the state is offering up a $1,500 one-time bonus to full-time workers who return to their jobs. Part-time workers will get $750.

"All Idaho businesses are now able to open their doors safely, and jobs are coming back," Little said in a statement. "The Return to Work bonuses are based on a fundamental conservative principle – we do not want people on unemployment. We want people working.

"We're responding to the needs of businesses, strengthening our workforce and economic rebound, and saving taxpayer dollars in the long run," Little added.

The move has been criticized by some, particularly those who have worked through the pandemic - including essential workers. They argue that it is unfair to give bonuses to people who have not worked, while those have will receive no bonuses.

It also comes as many unemployed workers continue to have difficulties collecting their unemployment benefits from the state, despite the Idaho Department of Labor adding additional staff to work on requests.

RELATED: 'It just doesn't make sense': Caldwell woman waiting on unemployment questions back-to-work cash bonus

In order for workers to receive the bonus, employers must apply for them on behalf of their employees. Eligibility requirements and information on how to apply are available here.

Idaho set aside $100 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to cover the bonuses, which will be provided to the worker after return to the workplace.

The funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis - based on the date of return to work - for qualified applicants. Submissions start July 13 for workers who returned from May 1 through June 14. A second wave of applications will open on July 20.

Little's office said the Idaho Workforce Development Council approved program details last week and the Governor's Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee approved them at its meeting on Wednesday.

"A strong economic rebound cannot occur without workers returning to a job, and the new Return to Work cash bonuses counteract the federal payouts and incentivize our workforce to get back to work safely," Little said.

RELATED: 'You need every incentive to get back to work': Gov. Little defends his return to work cash bonus program

RELATED: Gov. Little unveils $100 million program for back-to-work bonuses for Idaho employees

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