Stimulus funds to help state businesses with hiring

JACKSON – The state of Mississippi, via federal stimulus funds, will pay the salary of new, full-time employees for six months under a program known as STEPS.
Gov. Haley Barbour and the Mississippi Department of Employment Security announced the Subsidized Transitional Employment Program and Services during a small-business forum the governor conducted Tuesday in Jackson.
“Mississippi STEPS is unique in that it is a program specifically designed to benefit both the employee and employer,” Barbour said in a news release. The program “will provide much-needed aid during this recession by enabling business to hire new workers, thus enhancing the economic engines of our local communities.”
The program will be available for almost all companies and for potential employees who have at least one child under the age of 18 and who earn less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level, which is about $50,000 per year for a family of four.
The program will be subsidized with $43 million the state is receiving through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which became law earlier this year. The money must be spent by 2011. Barbour said he expects STEPS to be in operation by Oct. 1, pending expected federal approval.
Under the program, the employee salary will be paid in full the first two months and it will be stepped down after that, ending in six months. But, said Stan McMorris, director of customer operations at the Department of Employment Security, it is hoped that the company will want to maintain the employee, who is fully trained, past the six-month period.
The company must hire new positions through STEP and cannot use it to replace people who have been laid off. Plus, the company cannot hire more than 50 percent of its work force through STEP.
“We have people who need a job,” McMorris said “We have heard talk of people exhausting their unemployment benefits.”
While the program is available to most all employers, Barbour said the focus of the program will be small businesses.
About 150 people attended the forum, whose focus was opposition to President Barack Obama’s health care proposals and energy proposals.

Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@djournal.com.

STEP payments
Pay salary of new employees hired by Mississippi companies
First two months — 100 percent
Third month — 75 percent
Fourth and fifth months — 50 percent
Sixth month — 25 percent
State to use stimulus funds to pay companies for hiring workers

Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal