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Gov. Brad Little announced Friday that the state will award one-time cash bonuses to employees who return to work.

Full-time employees will receive up to $1,500, and part-timers will get up to $750 when they’re back in the workplace, he said at a news conference.

Idaho employers will be able to apply for bonuses on Rebound.idaho.gov by June 15 after the Workforce Development Council and Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee discuss details of the program’s rollout. A total $100 million in federal relief funds will be available on a first-come, first-served basis until that stimulus pool is tapped out. That federal money comes from CARES Act dollars already allotted to Idaho, Little’s press secretary Marissa Morrison Hyer told the Idaho Press.

Supplementary unemployment benefits awarded during the pandemic have raised more than 60% of American workers’ benefits packages above what they would normally make, the release claimed.

“This is not a bad thing, but it may create some hesitancy to go back to work,” Little said at the press conference.

He hopes the new program will tip those scales, encouraging Idahoans to return to work.

“We’re putting this out as bait to keep the economy going,” he said.

Between grants for full-time and part-time workers, Little’s office estimates that around 70,000 Idahoans will receive a grant.

To deter applicants from going back to work, collecting their bonuses and then quitting, employers will have to attest that employees intend to work ongoing jobs, said Morrison Hyer. Applications will be filed by employers, and will be capped at one per employee.

The bonuses won’t be subtracted from employees’ current benefits, and they’ll be given retroactively to those who went back to work after March 1.

Little also acknowledged difficulties with unemployment insurance Friday. As the pandemic has upended the economy, some Idahoans have run into issues receiving unemployment checks, in part because a spike in claims have backlogged Idaho Department of Labor staff. To address these issues, Little said the state has asked employees to work overtime, called former call center employees in to process claims, hired consultants, trained new employees and worked to automate part of the process.

Still, the governor acknowledged that bringing on new staff members has been time-consuming for staff who can process incoming claims.

“We’re looking at all of the options,” he said.

Blake Jones is the reporter for Kuna Melba News. You can reach him at bjones@idahopress.com and stop by during his office hours, Wed. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and Thu. 9 a.m.-12 p.m., at our Kuna newsroom, 326 Avenue D. Call ahead at 208-922-3008.