SHANNON YOUNGBLOOMFIELD, Conn. (AP) â¿¿ A new state program aimed at growing small businesses in Connecticut by rewarding employers who hire the unemployed has added 65 jobs since it began in February. The Subsidized Training and Employment Program, known as STEP UP, was created during a special legislative session on jobs last October. It provides employers with six-month wage subsidies, up to $20 an hour, and training grants to small manufacturers â¿¿ up to $12,500 over a six-month period. Businesses with 50 or fewer employees are eligible for the program. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy commended the program Tuesday during a news conference in Bloomfield at Street Fleet Mechanics, which has hired two new employees under the program. "Small businesses in the state need every critical tool we can give them to help them grow," Malloy said. The Democratic governor said STEP UP, which 45 Connecticut small businesses have participated in, is a "win-win bargain" for both the state and employers. Steve Lanza, of the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis at the University of Connecticut, however, a critic of government incentives, said it's hard to make a connection between the subsidies and new hiring because many businesses are likely to hire people without them. "The criticism of these sort of things is that it simply rewards companies for something they might already be doing," Lanza said. Sandi Potito, one of the owners of Street Fleet Mechanics, said her business would have needed to bring on two new employees at some point, but that the incentive allowed her to hire them sooner. Lanza said subsidies for businesses can interfere in the free market as states try and predict which businesses will be most successful with the funding, but he said it's better for the state to give them to small businesses than large corporations.
"In the past we have come up short in our support for small businesses in the state," he said. "It's a less bad thing."Malloy said the total budget for the program is $120 million, and a lot of money is still left to award subsidies.