After weeks of being forced to remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Times Square Italian restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona, wants to reopen. And according to the state, which has given dine-in restaurants the green light to reopen with some social-distancing measures in place, they finally can. But now, thanks to the $600-a-week federal hike in unemployment pay on top of state checks, they can’t find enough workers.
Speaking the local news outlets, Times Square owner Paullette Cano said she’s got about 30 open slots for employees, but few applicants. Those who have applied are demanding at least $20 an hour, about as much as they’d make on unemployment.
"With an unemployment rate at almost 20 percent, you'd think we'd have a lot of applicants coming in, but we're not," Cano said.
"They don't want to come back to work. It's the unemployment,” she explained. “They're receiving about $840 a week, which puts them about $22 an hour."
The inability to hire enough workers also poses a dilemma for restaurants that desperately need to reopen to stay afloat, but can't because they simply don't have the staff. But it also creates a problem for those that accepted federal loans to keep their heads above water during the shutdown. Like many small business owners, Cano said she’s concerned that she won’t be able to rehire the workers she laid off – a condition of having her federal small business loan forgiven. But the additional $600 a week in extra unemployment pay provided by the CARES Act won’t expire until July 31, leaving restaurants like Cano’s in a lurch.
"You want to hire, and they're just not coming into the door," she said. "In order for our country to get back to work, employees need to get back to work.”