NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The U.S. Department of Labor has set aside nearly $100 million in grants for states to set up or improve existing short-term compensation programs, commonly referred to as "work sharing."

Louisiana's share of the grant is $1.5 million. Work sharing allows employees to keep their jobs and helps employers to avoid laying off their workforce during economic downturns by reducing the hours of work for a group of affected workers.

The money was made available through the bipartisan Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which authorized states to set up programs to give employers and alternative to layoffs.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis says the program will help business owners better weather hard economic times by temporarily reducing their labor costs while still keeping their existing employees.