Report Highlights Success of Montana Return to Work Bonus Program

  • — February 02 2022

HELENA- The Montana Department of Labor & Industry (DLI) this week issued a report on the success of the Department’s Return to Work Bonus program, which provided more than 3,000 unemployment insurance (UI) claimants with an incentive to find and maintain employment with Montana businesses. The program was launched in May of 2021 and concluded in November.

“Coupled with the end of pandemic-era unemployment insurance benefits, the Return to Work bonus program provided a bridge for thousands of Montanans to take jobs and maintain employment,” said DLI Commissioner Laurie Esau. “Both workers and employers benefited from the program’s success. Today, just a few months after the program’s conclusion, more Montanans are working than ever before and Montana’s unemployment rate is at an all-time low.”

The report indicates that many bonus recipients likely found higher-paying jobs than they had prior to their unemployment.

“While nearly 60% of recipients earned wages less than $30,000 per year prior to unemployment, 60% of the jobs obtained by recipients earned $15 or more per hour, suggesting a significant increase in earnings,” the report says.

The report analyzes the demographics of bonus recipients, as well as the geographic dispersal of bonus recipients across Montana. Highlights of the report include:

  • Applications were received from 6,175 individuals, with 3,054 applicants (49%) being approved to receive the $1,200 bonus. About 98% of individuals who were not approved for the program were either ineligible or did not provide verification documentation.
  • A total of $3,664,800 in Return to Work Bonuses were distributed to Montanans across the state.
  • The program incentivized claimants to return to work all over Montana. The 3,054 recipients of the bonus represented 50 of Montana’s 56 counties.
  • Over 14% of incentive recipients obtained work in Food Preparation and Serving Occupations, a sector of significant labor scarcity.

“Montana’s economy grew throughout 2021, adding a total of 8,900 payroll jobs from May to December,” the report says. “By providing incentives to obtain employment, the Return to Work bonus program facilitated the transition back to work for thousands of UI claimants and provided relief to employers seeking to fill positions across Montana.”

The full report on the Department’s Return to Work bonus program is available here.

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