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A group will prep 20 people for a job search and pay two months' salary.

Employers in Tampa will soon have another incentive to hire some of the long-term jobless.

Someone else will pick up the tab for the first two months in their new job with no obligation to keep them on.

It's part of a privately funded pilot program called Platform to Employment that is being launched Monday during a business lunch at CareerSource Tampa Bay's center on Florida Avenue.

The WorkPlace, a Connecticut-based workforce council, designed Platform to Employment to target the estimated 3.7 million Americans searching for work 27 weeks or longer.

In addition to paying employers for eight weeks of salary per worker, P2E also will spend five weeks with participants to prep them for their search. Part of the prep course focuses on combating depression and other behavioral health issues more common among the long-term jobless.

"It's not a training program," said Tom Long, a spokesman for the WorkPlace. "It's a program to help build more confidence and develop focus and make people more competitive in their job search."

Tampa is the 10th city - and first Florida metro - to be tapped in the program's first phase. Twenty job seekers in Tampa who have been out of work six months or more have already been selected. The cost, about $6,000 per person, includes five weeks of preparation, training materials and average wages for their first two months.

Despite a steady drop in Florida's unemployment rate to 6.2 percent, the scourge of long-term joblessness remains. As of February, Florida was one of just two states where more than 45 percent of the unemployed had been looking for work for six months or more.

"For workers over the age of 50, prolonged unemployment can affect a lifetime of savings and retirement," said Ed Peachey, president and CEO of CareerSource Tampa Bay, part of the statewide network of job-training centers.

Louis Buccino, community relations and public affairs director with Citi, one of the program sponsors, said the program has had impressive results elsewhere in the early going. "P2E is proving that the right job-readiness programming, combined with personal and family support services and financial counseling, can return the long-term unemployed to the workforce," he said.

Other program sponsors include the AARP Foundation and the Walmart Foundation.