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.
The Assembly Democratic legislation is sponsored by Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver, Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, Budget Chairman Vincent Prieto, Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski, Connie Wagner, Wayne DeAngelo and Paul Moriarty.
"Let’s do the right thing for our state and put New Jerseyans back-to-work,” said 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 is a program that can benefit everyone by giving employers an opportunity to train potential employees and giving workers the chance to decide if the job is a good fit for them and prove themselves,” said Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington). “We must focus on creating jobs, and we must focus on helping out-of-work residents who have borne the brunt of our state’s lagging economy. This program is a responsible and creative approach to do just that while helping employers, too.”
“We need to be creative as we work toward reinvigorating New Jersey’s sagging economy,” said Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen). “This is one way to do it, and it’s a smart approach because we know it has worked elsewhere. Giving workers a chance to prove themselves and helping businesses all at the same time is something everyone should support.”
“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 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."
“Far too many people have been out –of-work for far too long in this state,” said Wagner (D-Bergen/Passaic). “It’s time to try innovative programs like this to give people hope while also giving them on-the-job training that could turn into something more permanent and better. We cannot sit idle while our unemployment rate hovers near 10 percent. We need unique ideas, and this is one of them.”
“Job creation must be our top priority, and when it comes to proven programs like this, we need to put politics aside and do what’s best for working class residents in this very difficult economy,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “We have to think of new ways to create jobs and economic development, and that’s why this program is worth a try. A 9.7 percent jobless rate is unacceptable.”
“We need programs like this to help workers and businesses emerge strong from this economy," said Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden). "This program is so exciting because it gives working class New Jerseyans an opportunity to get hands-on training that can improve their job skills and make themselves more attractive to potential employers. That's especially vital in this 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.