Governor Dan McKee and the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT) today announced the “Back to Business” initiative, an incentive program designed to connect businesses with job seekers. Using up to $4.5 million in CARES Act funds, the Back to Business initiative will address the ongoing workforce challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic by providing grants to employers who have suffered job losses during the pandemic and continue to experience a labor shortage.


“Our administration has worked closely with the business community throughout the pandemic. We have listened to concerns from employers who are having trouble finding workers and believe the Back to Business initiative is an innovate approach to get Rhode Island back to work,” said Governor McKee in a statement. “Our team worked with the Department of Labor and Training to find a solution that would benefit both employers and employees. There is no single answer to this nationwide workforce challenge, but we believe the Back to Business initiative is part of the solution.”

Grant monies can be used for new hire incentives, such as sign-on bonuses; referral incentives, in which an incentive payment is given to employees who successfully recruit a new hire for the employer; and other recruitment activities, such as job fairs, promotional materials, recruitment assistance, or ancillary supports.

“The Back to Business initiative will assist in the state’s continued economic recovery. We’ve added thousands of jobs to the labor force over the past several months and this program will ensure our progress continues,” said DLT Director Matthew Weldon in a statement. “This initiative continues to set Rhode Island apart from the country as a leader in economic recovery post-pandemic. I would like to thank Governor McKee for taking action on this important issue.”

These grants will be available to employers with fewer than 200 employees who are located in Rhode Island, suffered job losses during the pandemic, and have an ongoing labor shortage causing business interruption. Grant monies will be available on a first come, first served basis. Priority will be given to employers who have not received funding through similar federal initiatives (such as Restaurant Revitalization Funds or Shuttered Venue Operators Grants) and who have fewer than 50 employees. The maximum grant amount is $5,000 per employer. Recruitment incentives are capped at $1,000 per employee.
DLT is partnering with the nonprofit Skills for Rhode Island’s Future (Skills RI) to administer the program. DLT and Skills RI will review applications, determine employer eligibility, and disperse funds.

The application will open at 9 a.m. on Thursday, November 4, 2021 and will close at 4 p.m. on Friday, November 12, 2021. Subsequent rounds of funding will be announced if available. Employers can find the application form and answers to frequently asked questions at backtobusiness.skillsforri.com.

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Ryan Belmore has been the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp since 2012. He also currently works for Mountain News, where he serves as Senior Editor - North America for OnTheSnow. He previously worked for the New England Patriots and American Cancer Society. He currently serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).