BLACK HAWK, Colo. (CBS4) – It’s a job seeker’s market. If you’re unemployed and thinking of returning to work, not only will the State of Colorado pay you, businesses desperate to fill labor shortages are offering big incentives on top.

“Colorado Jumpstart is $1,200 through the month of June, and we’re still adding $1,400 on top of that. So, the state’s going to pay you at 30 and 60 days, we’re going to pay you at 90, 120 and 180,” said Erica Ferris, Director of marketing for Monarch Casino Resort Spa Black Hawk.

The “Colorado Jumpstart” program is offered to Colorado unemployment recipients who return to work between May 16 and June 26. Those who returned to work before June 1 were eligible to receive $1,600, those who returned after were eligible for $1,200. Monarch decided to up the ante, simply because it had to. Right now, the casino is short nearly 370 positions of all levels, in all different departments.

(credit: CBS)

“Did you just graduate with a degree in IT? I have a job for you. Marketing? That too,” said Ferris.

The wages are competitive, the tips are big, and a full-time commitment also comes with benefits for the whole family. The resort also offers relocation incentives to make the commute easier or a $4 round-trip bus ticket from Denver if you choose to commute. Still, the hiring has been tough.

The irony is that the casinos are finally packed again after many barely made it through the pandemic. Even on a Thursday, CBS4 noted people at nearly every gaming table and slot machine.

“We have a brand new 516 room hotel, three brand new restaurants, a brand-new roof top spa and pool,” she continued, “while our guests seem to be really willing to come back and visit us, we’re still really struggling to find people who are willing to come back to work.”

While she can’t speak for other casinos in the area, Ferris believes they would tell a similar story. Throughout the town of Black Hawk and Central City, there are help wanted signs everywhere.

“I really thought for a while that this is really about vaccinations. About getting in and getting your vaccinations so that you feel comfortable working in an environment where there are a large number of people and so we’re hoping everyone is going out, getting that vaccine so that they feel comfortable to come back to work and to help us have this amazing experience in our brand-new environment for our guests,” she said.

Many of the issues are isolated to the tourism industry – one that can’t function on the new highly favored “work from home” model. It’s something CBS4 found the high country is experiencing more so than other, more suburban areas of Colorado.

While programs like “Colorado Jumpstart” have helped, the number of people taking advantage isn’t enough to fill the gap.

“[More than 5,000] claimants have opted into the Jumpstart Program as of June 1. Colorado Department of Labor and Employment will be updating this number every Monday and publishing on its Unemployment Insurance Daily Dashboard,” said a spokesperson for the governor’s office.

Jamie Leary