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State rolls out STEPS program

JACKSON — Gov. Haley Barbour yesterday unveiled a new initiative, Mississippi STEPS: Subsidized Transitional Employment Program and Services, to aid small businesses in meeting their workforce needs while providing employment during these tough economic times.

Mississippi STEPS, a joint venture between the Mississippi Department of Human Services and the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, will subsidize the wages of a new employee hired by any public hospital, private non-profit or for-profit entity in the state over a six-month period. The program, which is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will begin Oct. 2009 and run through Sept. 2011.

“Mississippi STEPS is unique in that it is a program specifically designed to benefit both the employee and employer,” Barbour said. “The STEPS program will provide much-needed aid during this recession by enabling businesses to hire new workers, thus enhancing the economic engines of our local communities.”

The Mississippi STEPS program is designed to place workers in jobs that will result in full-time employment, as well as increase the skill level of the eligible participant. The program covers an employee’s salary at 100 percent at the beginning of the six-month period, and the subsidy decreases in “steps” over six months.

Although the program is open to any public hospital or private business, preference will be given to small businesses. Eligible employees must have at least one child under the age of 18 and earn within 250 percent of the federal poverty line.

Any questions regarding STEPS should be directed to the Mississippi Department of Employment Security at (601) 321-6000 or by e-mail at stimulus@mdes.ms.gov.

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