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NJBIA President & CEO Michele Siekerka says the state needs to re-examine its new “Return and Earn” wage subsidy program, which has distributed only a fraction of the $10 million in federal funds earmarked for small New Jersey businesses with 100 or fewer workers.

The program was intended to boost the state’s economy and help small businesses by providing funds for hiring bonuses and training programs that will help more people return to the workforce, but few businesses have been able to take advantage of it, NJ101.5 reported on Friday.

“The program right now is woefully under-utilized, though we understand that many businesses have applied for it, and it appears that it’s just too prescriptive and a lot of companies are not eligible for it,” Siekerka told NJ101.5 reporter David Matthau.

“Any time you have a program that looks like it’s not performing you should go back and look at some trends,” she said. “Why are people not eligible? What’s causing people to be kicked out of the program and not able to take advantage of it?”

The Return and Earn program, paid for with $10 million in federal American Rescue Plan money, has only allocated $1.4 million for training and $86,000 for hiring bonuses. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development told NJ101.5 it is considering expanding the pool of eligible employers so that the program can be used by more businesses.