AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Labor is extending the application deadline for the state’s “Back to Work” grant program to Friday, Aug. 20. The extension will allow employers who did not file their application by the original Aug. 6 deadline an additional two weeks to do so.

The program, launched in June as a short-term grant program to provide Maine businesses with another tool for attracting jobseekers, provides businesses with up to $1,500 grants to offer to qualifying new hires who accepted a job between June 15 and July 25.

According to a press release Aug. 11, as of Aug. 6, 386 employers are participating in the program with the department finding more than 400 employees provisionally eligible, meaning that if they complete at least eight weeks at their new job they will receive the grant funding. Employees do not need to have completed the full eight weeks required to be eligible before the employer applies; payroll verification to confirm length of employment will take place at a later stage.

Of the 386 employers who have participated in the program, 41% were smaller businesses with fewer than 20 employees. While employer participation crossed multiple industries, the most-represented industries were health care and social assistance (19%), accommodation and food services (18%) and retail trade (13%). Employers from every county in the state applied for the program.

“The Back to Work grant program is one of many tools we are using to help connect employers with job seekers,” DOL Commissioner Laura Fortman said in the press release. “… We hope this two-week application deadline extension will give businesses more time to get any lingering applications in so we can maximize the help we are able to provide.”

Maine added 11,200 jobs during first quarter and overall unemployment claims are steadily declining, the press release said. During July 2021, unemployment claims dropped by about 2,000. Meanwhile, CareerCenter staff assisted over 1,300 jobseekers with one-on-one basic employment services, 546 jobseekers honed their skills by attending virtual re-employment workshops, and 467 jobseekers connected with employment opportunities through virtual and in-person hiring events.

Next steps for employers  

Employers now have through Aug. 20 to submit applications for people hired between June 15 and July 25. After Aug. 20, the Back to Work application program will close and no new applications will be considered.

Once new provisionally eligible employees complete eight weeks of work, employers must then submit proof of payroll to verify their eligibility. Once that is completed and approved, grant funds will be released to the employer to give to their employees. As a final step, employers will need to provide proof of payment to demonstrate the grant funds were passed along to the employee.

More information on the Back to Work program, including access to the application and detailed eligibility requirements, can be found at maine.gov/covid19/back-to-work-grants.