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Restaurant owner worries about recovery without enough workers to ramp up business

KPTV

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    PORTLAND, Oregon (KPTV) — Oregon’s economy could fully reopen next month, and many counties could see a significant scale back in restrictions in a matter of days or weeks.

But one Portland restaurant owner tells FOX 12 he’s worried about missing out on this recovery time and fears other businesses are in the same spot, because they can’t find anyone to hire.

“Temporarily we’re going to be closed on Wednesdays and only open four days a week because we literally do not have the staff to be able to operate five days a week anymore,” G-Love Chef and Owner Garrett Benedict said.

When they are open, it’s busy, so now they’re hiring for every position, but after more than five weeks of having openings posted, they’ve made only one hire.

“I would love to double my workforce and expand to seven days a week, really kind of take advantage of the recovery and people’s appetite to be out and about get back to their lives instead we’re moving in the opposite direction,” Benedict said.

At this point in the pandemic, he thinks added unemployment benefits are to blame.

“Right now people are being incentivized to not work and we need to have the government incentivize people to come back to work,” he said.

As an example, for the beginning of this year, according to the Oregon Employment Department and Office of Economic Analysis, weekly regular unemployment averages $370, the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation adds $300 to that, which together is about the same as earning $16.75 an hour. Though they say usually full-time workers in Oregon earn more.

We asked the Oregon Employment Department, if people are able to be fully vaccinated now and so many places are hiring, is there a point when unemployment benefits would go back down to the amount they were pre-pandemic?

They told us in part, “The pandemic-related federal benefit programs have created a lifeline for Oregonians whose livelihoods were impacted by COVID-19. OED does not want those who need these valuable benefits to lose access to them before the programs end. We intend to continue administering PUA, PEUC, FPUC and MEUC benefits through their Sept. 4 expiration. We are encouraging people who can work to do so, but without removing the needed safety net from others.”

They said the temporary rules put in place at the start of the pandemic will also be rolled back, things that may have been paused or modified like having to actively look for work, be available to work, and register in their online matching skills system.

Meantime Benedict worries what this might mean for his business between now and September.

“We might not be able to recover during the quote unquote recovery, it’s a pretty stressful place to be.”

We’ve heard of several businesses offering hiring incentives to get people on board.

At G-love they’re offering a $500 signing bonus for dishwashers and $1,000 for other positions.

Benedict says they already match 50% for employee healthcare but he’s considering upping that to 100% as another incentive.

Anyone interested in the open positions at G-Love can reach out to Benedict at garrett@g-lovepdx.com

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