April 27,2021

Crapo, Risch Introduce Back to Work Bonus Legislation

Washington, D.C.--U.S. Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) today introduced the “Back to Work Bonus Act.”  The bill counteracts enhanced federal unemployment benefits that discourage workers from returning to jobs by providing a back-to-work bonus for those who are able to safely do so.  Idaho was the first state to implement a return to work bonus system in July 2020, and over 10,000 Idahoans sought the bonus on day one.  Idaho’s bonus program safely and successfully reduced the amount of Idahoans on unemployment, strengthening the state’s workforce and economic rebound. 


“The economy is showing strong signs of recovery, and a record number of Americans are being vaccinated each day,” Crapo said.  “However, a growing economy requires a willing and able workforce, and many small businesses are having trouble competing with enhanced unemployment benefits.  A back-to-work bonus provides an incentive to return to work safely, and will help to accelerate our economic recovery.  The federal government should leverage Idaho’s experience in getting employees safely back to work, and I applaud Governor Little for his leadership on this issue.”


“Idaho was the first state to boldly implement Back to Work incentives during the most difficult months of the pandemic,” Idaho Governor Brad Little said.  “The Return to Work bonuses are based on a fundamental conservative principle – we do not want people on unemployment. We want people working. A strong economic rebound cannot occur without workers returning to a job, and the Return to Work cash bonuses counteract the federal payouts and incentivize our workforce to get back to work safely. Idaho responded to the needs of businesses, strengthened our workforce and economic rebound, and saved taxpayer dollars in the long run. The incredibly strong response from Idaho employers in our Return to Work bonuses last year demonstrated that businesses absolutely need this incentive in order to get their employees back to work. The federal government can look to Idaho on ways to help hard-hit businesses now that jobs across the country are coming back!”


The American Rescue Plan Act provided an extension of $300/week in supplemental unemployment benefits through September 6, 2021.  As states begin to reopen, the expansion of benefits has presented serious challenges for businesses trying to hire or recall workers, especially employers in the Paycheck Protection Program.  The Back to Work Bonus Act would help connect unemployed workers with jobs to get the economy going again. 


House Ways and Means Ranking Member Kevin Brady introduced identical legislation in the House, the Reopening America by Supporting Workers and Businesses Act of 2021.


Bill Summary: 


·         Time limited back-to-work bonuses: Makes work pay by providing a one-time payment of either $1,200 (full-time) or $600 (part-time) to unemployed workers who obtain employment, comparable to a hiring bonus.  The bonus requires verification from an individual’s employer of their hours and earnings and would be available through July 1, 2021.


·         Reemployment services: In recognition of the increased need for support to laid off workers, the bill accelerates a scheduled increase in funding for Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessments (RESEA) and expands the pool of eligible workers to include those receiving benefits through CARES Act unemployment programs, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.


·         Reinstate job search requirement: The bill reinstates the federal work search requirement for individuals receiving unemployment.  Last March, when businesses were closed, Congress provided flexibility for states to waive this requirement.  Thirty-two states continue to have a waiver in place.  Reopening the economy will require connecting all available workers to job openings.


A section-by-section summary of the bill is available here.  Bill text is available here.