The “Back to Work NJ” program was approved Thursday by the full Senate. The bill would pair unemployed workers with New Jersey businesses in a six-week training program. The program would allow eligible companies to take on an unemployed state resident for up to six weeks of on-the-job training. During that time, the individual would be able to work up to 24 hours per week, while continuing to receive unemployment compensation. The individual would also be eligible for up to $100/week to help dissolve the costs of transportation or child care, along with workers’ compensation insurance if necessary.

Senators Linda Greenstein, Bob Gordon and Fred Madden sponsored the bill that now heads to Governor Chris Christie’s desk for the second time this year. He vetoed the measure in February.

Greenstein(D-14) said the program is a great idea; a company gets to test a potential employee, and an unemployed New Jersey resident earns the chance for a job.

“It’s really an attempt to put unemployed people back to work in a very realistic way,” said Greenstein. “Usually, we say we’d like unemployed people to get back to work. Here we are saying there’s an actual job to give.”

To be eligible to participate in the program, employers must be ready to immediately hire for a position in their companies, have the ability to provide adequate training, and be located within the state.

However, trainees would not guaranteed a position once training is finished.

Lawmakers opposed to the bill have expressed concerns about spending. The Office of Legislative Services estimated the bill would cost the State General Fund approximately $2.5 million a year.

Greenstein said she thinks the cost is minimal.

“It costs New Jersey next to nothing and can only be beneficial,” she explained. “Obviously, the only cost in there is the issue of the stipend.”

The legislation was based on the successful Georgia Work$ program. According to statistics compiled by the Georgia Department of Labor, 10,589 people participated in Georgia Work$ from February 2003 until January 2010. Of that number, 6,105 completed training and 3,363 were hired either during or at the end of their training. An additional 1,170 people found work within 90 days of completing training.