Small business owners hope state’s workforce incentive program will bring back employees

Out-of-work New Jersey residents could see an extra $500 in their bank accounts under a new work incentive Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Monday.
The plan is an effort to help the Garden State’s small businesses that are seeking employees. Employers would also receive funds to help fill the positions, under the plan.
The Westfield Chamber of Commerce announced it is hosting a job fair this week. Local businesses are hoping that the state program will entice qualified employees to come back to work.
“The whole furnishing industry – it’s been booming,” says Ron Shovlin, owner of Shovlin Mattress Factory.
And while owning a booming business is a good thing, Shovlin says that it does come with some challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Other than having the problems of supply chain issues, finding skilled labor is tough,” he says.
Shovlin says that he hopes that the state’s Return and Earn incentive program will help solve the labor shortage. He says that he needs at least three new employees in his factory and his Fanwood retail store to keep up with the demand.
“It’s been very difficult. Things started to open up and they weren’t able to get the help they need to reopen,” says Gene Jannotti, CEO of the Greater Westfield Area Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber of Commerce represents 500 local businesses. Jannotti says that he thinks the incentive program can only help small businesses and in turn, help the economy.
“It’s going to help stimulate this economy again and get the economy rolling by getting these people back into the work force,” he says. “We’ve made a lot of strides in the last few months, but we’ve got to go a lot further.”
The $10 million pilot program will be paid for with money from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan. The governor says that if it is successful, the state will consider expanding it. It was unclear when the incentives would start.