A state incentive to get unemployed Mainers to take full- and part-time jobs has been extended through late July, and a half-payment for part-time workers has been added.

The Back to Work grant program was established to provide newly hired full-time workers in Maine a bonus of $1,500 from the state if they take a job and stop receiving unemployment benefits for roughly two months or more.

Since the program started June 15, about 100 employers have applied for grants that would cover roughly 300 workers, the Maine Department of Labor reported Thursday.

The $1,500 hiring bonus originally was scheduled to decrease to $1,000 at the beginning of July, the department said. Now, it will be available for the duration of the program, which ends July 25.

In addition, part-time employees working at least 20 hours a week and not collecting unemployment can now receive a $750 bonus payment.

“As awareness of the program increases, interest and participation from employers is gaining momentum,” state Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman said in a statement.

Under program rules, full- and part-time workers must have claimed unemployment benefits in the last week of May, be paid an hourly wage of less than $25 and stay on the job without collecting benefits for at least eight weeks.

Employers apply for grants and pay the bonus after a new hire has been on the job for the required period.

Maine’s labor market has tightened in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, with tens of thousands still collecting unemployment benefits every week and almost 30,000 workers leaving the labor force.

Employers have responded by raising wages, improving benefits and offering their own sign-on bonuses.

Continuing unemployment claims, the weekly report jobless workers need to file to keep receiving benefits, fell by about 600 last week. Roughly 35,000 continuing claims were filed across state and federal unemployment programs, including those for self-employed and contract workers and those whose regular benefits have run out.

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