CONCORD – Governor John Lynch today signed into law his new, innovative jobs initiative aimed at helping workers and companies recover from the recession.

New Hampshire Working is a three-part initiative introduced by Governor Lynch. It is designed to help companies and workers avoid layoffs, help unemployed workers return to work and provide training to help workers get new jobs.

“Our number one focus must continue to be helping companies and workers recover from this recession,” Governor Lynch said. “We cannot and we will not rest until everyone who wants a job can get a job. With this legislation, we are providing businesses and citizens with new help to get back to work and to recover from the recession.”

New Hampshire Working leverages existing resources to help businesses and workers recover from the recession. The legislation implementing parts of the program received overwhelming bipartisan support in the House and Senate.

“I have met a number of people who have been out of work for several months, and in some cases a year or more. They want the opportunity to work again, to show employers they have the skills and talents needed in today’s workforce, but they just need someone to give them a chance,” Governor Lynch said. “With New Hampshire Working, we are giving them that chance. At the same, with this legislation, we will be able to help businesses retain the workers they need to recover from the recession and ensure that our workers and companies have the skills they need to compete in the future.”

“The focus of New Hampshire Employment Security is putting New Hampshire’s citizens back to work. New Hampshire Working provides us with creative new ways to help our workforce stay at work, return to work and be ready for work,” said Employment Security Commissioner Tara Reardon. “We applaud our Governor and the Legislature’s hard work in support of  these efforts to help both business and employees in this challenging times.”

The new law, Senate Bill 501, immediately implements two parts of New Hampshire Working; the final piece is already up and running.

Under the first part of New Hampshire Working, the state will be able to partner with businesses and workers to provide an alternative to layoffs. Companies and workers would agree to reduced hours instead of layoffs, and the state will make up part of the lost wages for workers through unemployment benefits.

Workers will keep their jobs, their health insurance and most of their income. Companies will be able to retain the skilled workers they need to recover, and taxpayers will avoid increased costs as the demand for state services increases as unemployment rises. This part of New Hampshire Working is modeled after successful job-share programs in other states.

Under the second part of New Hampshire Working, New Hampshire job agencies will develop a plan for assessing the job skills of all newly unemployed workers. Workers can take the results of those assessments to potential employers, giving business owners confidence that new hires will have the necessary skills.

The new law also doubles the state’s Job Training Fund to $2 million a year in 2011 and allows Employment Security to use those funds to train unemployed workers.

“New Hampshire Working is a way we can help companies and workers through these tough times,” GovernorLynch said. “The funding required for these programs is money we are already spending – but with New Hampshire Working we’re spending it better, in a way that will help companies and workers, and reduce costs for taxpayers.”

The final part of New Hampshire Working did not require legislation and is already up and running. This part of the initiative reduces upfront training costs for companies – often an impediment to hiring – and is providing on-the-job training to help workers get new jobs. Unemployed workers are able to continue to receive unemployment benefits while participating in up to six weeks of training at a potential new employer. A company has until the end of that period to decide if a worker has the skills the business needs.

Senate Bill 501 was sponsored by Sens. Maggie Hassan, Matt Houde, Amanda Merrill, Betsi DeVries, Jackie Cilley, Bette Lasky, Molly Kelly, Sylvia Larsen, Martha Fuller Clark, Kathy Sgambati, Deb Reynolds, Harold Janeway, Lou D’Allesandro, Peggy Gilmour, Bob Odell; and Reps. Mary Jane Wallner, Sally Kelly, Dan Eaton, Ed Butler and Will Infantine.