New Hampshire will soon end the $300 benefit that unemployed workers can get from the federal government but is introducing a $500-$1,000 bonus for unemployed people who find steady work, Gov. Chris Sununu announced Tuesday.
Anyone who gets a job making $25 or less starting Tuesday and keeps it for eight weeks will be eligible for the Summer Stipend Program, Sununu said. He explained that it was time to switch from incentivizing people to stay home to incentivize them to get a job because the COVID situation has improved dramatically.
"We have plenty of jobs and we want folks to get back out there," Sununu said at a news conference in Concord.
New Hampshire will give out $10 million in work bonuses, with $500 going to people who take part-time work and $1,000 to people who take full-time work, the governor said. The $300 weekly federal unemployment benefit will end in the Granite State on June 19, returning New Hampshire to its pre-pandemic unemployment program.
Governors in more than a dozen states, most of them Republicans like Sununu, have recently announced they will stop providing the $300 weekly benefit that’s been paid for the federal government. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, did not, but he did announce a similar back-to-work bonus on Monday.
New Hampshire was among the first to expand eligibility for unemployment benefits when the pandemic first struck. Between March and April 2020, its unemployment rate jumped from 2.7% to over 16% but as of this month, was back down to 2.8%, and Sununu said he's hearing from many employers who are looking to hire.
There are about 35,000 people in New Hampshire getting unemployment, all of whom qualify for the federal benefits.
To unemployed people who are concerned about getting COVID, Sununu said, they should get vaccinated: "If not now then when?"
The governor had announced last week that New Hampshire was planning to end the $300-a-week supplemental federal payment for people collecting state unemployment benefits before it expires on Labor Day, but did not give a date for when the enhancement would be discontinued.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has decreased over the past two weeks, going from 240 new cases per day on May 2 to 139 new cases per day on Sunday.
The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services isn’t completely on board with the latest federal mask guidelines, officials said at the news conference.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that fully vaccinated people can skip face coverings and social distancing in virtually all situations, except crowded indoor locations such as airplanes, buses, hospitals and prisons.
Sununu lifted New Hampshire’s statewide mask mandate last month, though requirements remain in place in some communities and within individual businesses. And the latest state guidelines issued Tuesday continue to recommend mask use and social distancing indoors regardless of vaccination status unless gathering in small groups of fully vaccinated people.
“Frankly the CDC guidance was difficult, if not impossible, for businesses and organizations to figure out how to implement,” said Dr. Benjamin Chan.
“The CDC guidance is looking at the perspective of individual risk,” he said. “We have to take the population health perspective and taken into account our local context and local situation, what it means with our level of vaccination and our level of COVID19 in the community, to pull back on some of these restrictions.”