Idaho Begins Issuing “Return to Work” Bonuses

By Leni Plimpton

On June 17, 2020, Idaho’s governor, Brad Little, ordered that $100 million of the $1.25 billion given to Idaho by Congress via the CARES act’s Coronavirus Relief Fund will be used as a “bonus” for Idaho workers who applied for unemployment during COVID-19 and who have now gone back to work instead of receiving unemployment benefits. The Governor explained that the purpose of the bonus was to encourage Idahoans to “return to work as soon as possible” despite the fact that “as many as two-thirds of those receiving enhanced unemployment benefits are making more than they did prior to the COVID-19 pandemic” thanks to the enhanced federal unemployment benefits which provide $600 extra per week to recipients. Interestingly, this incentive would appear to be unnecessary, given that refusing suitable work is grounds for disqualification for unemployment benefits in Idaho. https://www.labor.idaho.gov/dnn/Unemployment-Benefits/Personal-Eligibility. The order notes, however, that Idaho employers “report trouble getting employees to return to work for various reasons.” Now, as Idaho becomes one of the nation’s new coronavirus hot spots, the bonus program has taken effect, with the application period having opened on July 13, 2020.

What Idaho Employers Need to Know About this “Bonus” Program:

  • The program is administered by The Idaho State Tax Commission pursuant to Governor Brad Little’s Executive Order.

  • The purpose of the program is to provide a lump sump payment to eligible workers based in part on the “basic conservative principle articulated by President Ronald Regan: “We should measure success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added.”

  • An eligible worker is someone who is a resident of Idaho, worked for an Idaho employer in 2020, has a social security number, submitted a request for Idaho unemployment benefits on or after March 1, 2020, returned to work with any Idaho employer by July 1, 2020, makes $75,000 or less annually, returns to work for at least four weeks, and who is in a position that is “intended to continue beyond four weeks.”

  • An eligible worker who averages 20 or more hours in the four weeks immediately following the return to work can receive $750, whereas an eligible worker averaging 30 or more hours per week can receive $1500.

  • Funds will be awarded on a first-come, first served basis until the funds run out. The earliest returning workers receive priority if there are more applications received than resources available.

  • The application period opened July 13. Employers must apply for the bonus on behalf of their eligible employees.

  • The eligible employee need not have been previously employed by the applying employer.

  • Recipients of the bonus will have their names published publicly on Idaho’s government website.

  • Nothing in the order or on the Idaho Government’s Website appears to require an employer to apply for these return-to-work bonuses for its employees. So this would be up to each employer whether it wants to apply.

For more, and for instructions on how to apply, Idaho employers can visit: https://rebound.idaho.gov/return-to-work-bonuses/

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