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Mind Your Business

Allen Harris: Get $400,000 to help your company

Virus Outbreak Massachusetts

Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration has launched a new grant program to help businesses and nonprofit organizations attract workers.

Your Massachusetts-based business is booming. People want what you have. But you’re being held back because you can’t find enough workers to service your customers. There are not enough good employees to go around, but a new solution is available to your business.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration has launched a new grant program to help businesses and nonprofit organizations attract workers. The grant allows for $4,000 per new hire, up to $400,000 per company.

Baker says a goal is to entice people to get back into the workforce. The grants make it easier for businesses to hire people with skills sets or experience that they may not have ordinarily considered. Massachusetts companies have about 200,000 open jobs, and there are 85,000 fewer workers now than before the pandemic. Many of those workers have not returned to employment because of COVID-19 related issues.

This $50 million program is called “HireNow.” It is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act signed into law by President Joe Biden in March 2021. HireNow is touted as a tool to help businesses hire and accommodate employees who may not have been previously considered due to less than perfectly matched skills. The $4,000 per new employee grant may cover training expenses such as external technical skills assistance, language tutoring, mentoring, establishing a tuition reimbursement program, or any other way to ensure that they’ll be a productive employee for you.

This can entice otherwise overlooked workers to start a new career that they previously may not have been able to see themselves in. Many incredible people to hire don’t necessarily check the traditional boxes. However, as we’ve seen over the last couple of years, humans can pivot and adapt to change. Nonetheless, employers need workers not just to hire now but to work now. Some of those quality workers need to be trained. Workers are more attracted to companies that provide a training program. The grant expands the workforce.

In addition to training costs, it can be used much more broadly. The grant can cover hiring costs such as hiring a recruiter, posting help wanted ads, or paying a referral bonus. Also, the grant can be used for such things as developing an onboarding program, tuition reimbursement, child care, and even sign-on bonuses.

The sign-up process for the grant is built to circumvent bureaucratic red tape. Employers can use it essentially any way they see fit, so long as it’s used to attract and retain new employees. Businesses are not required to document their training methods or even submit receipts for specific expenses. However, given the rampant fraud of previous business grants, such as the Payroll Protection Program, you should be prepared for an audit. An audit would include a review of payroll records, banking information, or tax records.

The grants can be applied to Massachusetts residents hired after March 23, 2022, who you retained for a minimum of 60 days and who worked at least 30 hours per week. Also, the workers must be paid a minimum of $14.25 per hour (or a $21,275 salary) but no more than $42.50 per hour (or an $85,000 salary). Tipped employees must make no less than $6.15 per hour. The new hires must work in Massachusetts and be W2 employees. They do not have to work on-site so long as they are paying Massachusetts payroll taxes. Also, the new hires do not need to be unemployed when hired, you can cajole them from another employer.

Eligible entities are nongovernment Massachusetts employers. The employers only need to have a presence in Massachusetts; they can be headquartered elsewhere. There are four steps to sign up:

Step 1 is to apply at Mass.Gov/HireNow. You or a current employee must be the primary contact. You cannot outsource the efforts to a third-party contractor or consultant. Have the following information ready: your official company name, the name of the primary contact, your federal employer identification number, the number of current full-time and part-time Massachusetts employees, an estimate of how many employees you plan to hire between now and the end of 2022, and a summary of how you plan to use the grant money. Once you’ve applied, the system is designed to direct you to the next steps.

Step 2 is to complete the Employer Registration process. You will upload your certificate of good standing to show that you’ve been paying unemployment insurance and are up-to-date on all obligations to the Commonwealth. That document can be requested through mtc.dor.state.ma.us/mtc/_/#1. This step must occur before the first eligible new hire has been on the job for 60 days.

Step 3 is to enter the new hire information. You will be asked their name, job title, pay rate, work and home address, weekly hours, and demographics (gender, ethnicity, and race).

Step 4 confirms that the employee remained eligible by having worked for 60 days. This must be completed no later than 120 days after their starting date of employment with your organization. You’ll then enter your company’s banking information, sign off electronically, and receive the grant via electronic funds transfer.

If I missed anything that might be particular to you, this is a list of Frequently Asked Questions on this website: commcorp.org/hirenow/faqs/. I encourage you to apply today. The funds are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis until Dec. 31, or until the money runs out.

Allen Harris is the owner of Berkshire Money Management in Dalton. He can be reached at aharris@berkshiremm.com.

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