Assembly Approves ‘Back to Work NJ’ Job Creation & Training Program

TRENTON – Renewed Assembly Democratic legislation to create the Back to Work NJ job creation and training program was approved 48-29 Monday by the Assembly as a key part of the Assembly Democratic job creation initiative.

“Let’s do the right thing for our state and put New Jerseyans back-to-work,” said Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “This program has proven successful elsewhere, which is why I remain committed to seeing this bill signed into law and am ready to work with anyone to see that it happens. This program will allow out-of-work New Jerseyans to develop the skills to get back in the workforce, but it will also help our businesses find and develop new workers. It’s a true win-win for everyone.”

The bill (A-3580) remains a centerpiece of Assembly Democratic legislative efforts to create jobs and reinvigorate New Jersey’s economy. Two previous versions were approved by the Legislature but vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie, despite the success of a similar program in Georgia.

The bill permits an eligible laid off worker to continue receiving unemployment insurance benefits while placed in on-the-job training with an eligible employer for a maximum of 24 hours per week for up to six weeks. The program is voluntary for both laid off workers and employers.

This version would modify the program with one major change – instead of a $100 weekly stipend, there would be a $50 weekly stipend and a transit pass getting participating workers from their nearest point of transit to the workplace. The program would cost $1.5 million, but the sponsors noted the program would also result in unemployment claimants securing employment sooner, thus reducing unemployment benefit costs.

“This program works, is affordable and can provide real help to unemployed residents who have been looking to rejoin the workforce for far too long,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). “No one should be opposing this program. We all need to come together and do what’s best for our residents to create jobs and grow our economy.”

The legislation is based on the successful Georgia Work$ program.

According to statistics compiled by the Georgia Department of Labor, 10,589 people participated in Georgia Works from February 2003 until January 2010. Of that number, 6,105 completed training and 3,363 were hired either during or at the end of their training. An additional 1,170 people found work within 90 days of completing training.

The bill also requires the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development to monitor eligible participants and eligible employers who participate to ascertain whether the training provided by the program complies with the requirements. If the department determines that an employer has a repeated pattern of using eligible participants as unpaid labor without hiring them as employees, or otherwise fails to comply with the requirements, the department may impose penalties and shall disqualify the employer from further participation.

The bill will now be referred to the Senate for more consideration.

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