Back-to-Work Grant Program

Updated July 1, 2021

New: As indicated below, the Back to Work program is now open to eligible part-time new hires (20+ hours/week) for a $750 grant and $1500 for eligible full-time new hires through July 25.


To help support Maine’s economy, especially during the busy summer season, the Back-to-Work Employer Grant Program offers grants to businesses to pay as hiring bonuses to qualifying new employees.

With Maine among the nation’s leaders in COVID-19 vaccination and case counts declining, businesses are eager to increase staffing after the economic disruption of the pandemic. These grants will provide Maine’s employers with a powerful recruitment tool to help them attract workers and meet staffing needs in today’s competitive hiring landscape.

Eligible businesses will receive a $1,500 one-time grant for each qualifying full-time employee and a $750 one-time grant for each qualifying part-time employee with a start date between June 15 and July 25, 2021.

Up to $10 million will be allocated for the grant funds, business processing fees, and associated implementation costs. This is a first-come, first-served program; once the $10 million is expended, the application portal will close.


About the Program

The updated eligibility qualifications for the program are now as follows:

For the $1,500 grant, full-time new hires must:

  • Have received unemployment benefits for the week ending May 29, 2021.
  • Have started one full-time job (at least 35 hours per week) in Maine between June 15 and July 25, 2021.
  • Be employed for at least eight weeks, at an hourly wage of less than $25. 
  • Not receive unemployment benefits during their period of employment.

For the $750 grant, part-time new hires must:

  • Have received unemployment benefits for the week ending May 29, 2021.
  • Have started one part-time job (at least 20 hours per week) in Maine between June 15 and July 25, 2021.
  • Be employed for at least eight weeks, at an hourly wage of less than $25. 
  • Not receive unemployment benefits during their period of employment.

To receive a grant payment, businesses must:

  • Once the qualifying new hire has a start date, enter the employee information and job details into the online application portal.
  • Following the employee’s first eight weeks of work, provide documentation of their wages to receive the grant. You will also be asked to provide a record of prompt payment to the employee, once the grant funds are delivered.
  • Register with the State as a vendor and with Maine JobLink prior to making the grant payment. (See the benefits of registration for your business below.)
For more details on the program and eligibility, please consult the FAQs below, or email BackToWork@Maine.gov.

Program FAQs

How do employers benefit from a Maine JobLink account?
  • Post job openings at no charge and get matched to job seekers who meet their criteria;
  • Use the resume search tool to find the perfect candidate;
  • Get access to, and participate in, job fairs and customized recruitment activities;
  • Job postings go out on social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter) connected to MJL;
  • Recruit Veterans and get recognized as a preferred employer;
  • Confirm eligibility to receive partial cost-reimbursement for new hire or incumbent worker training;&
  • Sponsor internships and work experience participants whose wages are fully paid;
  • Apply for tax credits for hire of specific populations through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit;
  • Access no-cost Fidelity Bonds to guarantee “at-risk” new hires for the first six months;
  • Get assistance recruiting foreign labor through H-2A and H-2B foreign labor certification;
  • Access layoff aversion assistance, including worker training necessary to avert layoffs and/or layoff services for employees who are to be laid off;
  • Work with staff to develop and implement apprenticeship programs.
How much is the Back-to-Work grant?

Eligible businesses will receive a $1,500 one-time grant for each qualifying full-time employee and a $750 one-time grant for each qualifying part-time employee with a start date between June 15 and July 25, 2021.

When would I receive my Back-to-Work grant?

Grant payments will come following eight weeks of verified employment.

Is the Back-to-Work grant taxable?

Yes. Employers will receive a 1099G for the grant payment. Grant awards will include an offset to cover the employee's payroll tax obligation. The IRS has also issued this specific guidance for businesses about grant payments.

Grant recipients will have the payment included in their W2.
How will I know if I, or my employee, is eligible for a grant?

The Maine Department of Labor has notified unemployment recipients about their eligibility for the grant. 

In addition, after an employer uploads their employee information and documentation into the online portal, they will receive two emails: 

  • Confirmation of your application; and
  • Verification that the individual(s) are eligible.
Are self-employed people eligible for the grant?

Those who are self-employed do not qualify, unless they are accepting full-time W2 employment.

Are employees from out of state or those receiving unemployment from other states eligible for the Back to Work program?

No, employees must have received unemployment benefits from the state of Maine for the week ending May 29, 2021.

What if I have a work search waiver, or have already reported a return-to-work date?

Unemployment claimants who already have reported a return to work date and/or have a work search waiver in place as of June 15, 2021 do not qualify for the grant.

Can I work two jobs that equal 35 hours per week?

This individual would not qualify as a full-time worker but if the employee meets all qualifications for part-time work (20+ hours), the new hire will be eligible to receive the grant through one employer.

What if I am hired full-time, but have a situation -- such as an emergency or sick child -- that prevents me from working a full 35 hours per week for 8 weeks?

To be eligible for the full-time new hire grant ($1500), employees must work an average of 35+ hours per week over the 8-week time period. To be eligible for the part-time new hire grant ($750), employees must work an average of 20+ hours per week over the 8-week time period.

Can employees receive more than one Back-to-Work bonus?

No. The bonus is a one-time payment for eligible workers in part-time or full-time jobs. If an individual has two qualifying positions, the first employer to register the eligible employee will receive the grant to distribute to the work.

If I am found ineligible for the grant, can I appeal?

No. Because the bonus is not an unemployment payment, it cannot be appealed.

Are municipalities, counties or state agencies eligible for grants?

No, only private employers are eligible for this program.

What process are in place to ensure grant payments are made to employees?

As part of the application, employers must agree to make grant payments to employees in the next pay period after it is received.

Before distributing the grant, employers must provide proof of payroll for the time their employees worked.  

After the grant payment is made, the Department of Labor will follow up with employers to provide proof the grant payment was made within the next pay period.