As the stimulus checks from the American Rescue Plan continue to roll out, a talking point has emerged frequently in recent weeks: That businesses, especially restaurants, are having trouble finding people to hire, because with the stimulus and extended unemployment benefits in place, “nobody wants to work.”
This message has been conveyed on signs posted at some fast-food restaurants, sometimes as an apology for slow service. The counterpoint to that has often been that if restaurants and other businesses cannot find anyone to work, they should raise their wages, or perhaps consider that some would rather work somewhere besides a restaurant with the pandemic still not entirely over.
A report about the situation by KTBS looked at that situation in Louisiana specifically, visiting a job fair in Shreveport where 35 businesses in the food and hospitality industries were looking to find new hires.
“It has a lot to do with … between unemployment and stimulus packages, I mean I have had one of my guys totally honest with me, he’s like ‘man I got three kids at home, my taxes done, I got my stimulus check’ and he’s like ‘this is the most money I’ve had in my checking account in a long time and I just want to relax and enjoy myself a little bit’. Seems to be the case with a lot of places around town,” the general manager of a pizza place told the TV station.
The head of the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, which played a part in organizing the fair, said that the event was a response to the demand among companies in the area that are looking to hire restaurant and hospitality workers.
“We hope this fair will allow them to find the employees that they need, and to help businesses reopen, rethink and rebound from what’s happened during the pandemic,” he told KTBS.
That problem, however, would appear to be a temporary one, as the money from the third stimulus check will run out eventually, and it remains highly unlikely that Congress will pass another round of such checks. As for the extended unemployment, that money will run out later this year as well.
President Biden, meanwhile, this week announced a new program called Restaurant Revitalization Fund has launched and is now accepting applications. The American Rescue Plan allocated $28.6 billion in grants for that program.
“Some of the parts of our economy need special help. At the top of that list is our nation’s restaurants. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, our nation’s restaurants were some of the first hit and the worst hit. In 2020, more than 2,300– excuse me. Two million– 2.3 million restaurant jobs disappeared. 2.3 million restaurant jobs disappeared,” the president said of the program this week.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.