Employers offering incentives to fill job openings amid COVID-19 pandemic

NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- "Help wanted" is a sign many may be seeing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of unfilled jobs is so high that last month it set a record as the National Federation of Independent Businesses found 44% - almost half of small business owners reported unfilled job openings.

There's child care issues with schools not full-time, worries about the vaccine and exposure.

Some employers say they can't compete with unemployment benefits.

"The hiring crisis has been putting a damper on a lot of the challenges that already existed, and certainly the business down the shore that rely on tourism are getting very, very worried," said Dana Lancellotti, President of NJ Restaurant and Hospitality Association.

There's a time crunch to prepare for the summer season, so as 7 On Your Side's Nina Pineda found out, employers are offering all sorts of incentives from subsidized housing to sign up bonuses to get people back to work.

"Now Hiring" jobs include hostesses, wait staff, bussers, pool and park attendants -- except there's not enough applicants and whole lot of openings.

"It's beautiful at the shore," said Curtis Bashaw, owner of Cape Resorts. "We have a ton of guests who want to provide tips and gratuity. If there's ever an opportunity to come get a summer job, it's this year."

Bashaw says to staff its properties are located in Sag Harbor and eight in Cape May.

The hotel group created two major initiatives to lure in new team members.

First, an affordable place to live.

"Providing housing for our team members is sort of an existential recruitment issue for us," Bashaw said. "We just closed a hotel a block from the beach a week ago. We've been able to recruit 90 people to our team who will then have access to housing."

Next, they're offering resume building through a new gap year program in the hospitality industry.

"Offering them courses they can take optionally in the evening, where those of us in senior management meet with them and talk about how to start a business marketing and accounting," Bashaw said.

It's been a tough ride for service industry providers to fill 4,000 jobs.

Six Flags Great Adventure announced a $4 wage increase from $11 to $15 an hour, across 10 departments throughout the park.

Small businesses like Ani Ramen are getting creative, in need of front and back of the house positions. It is offering finders fees and gift cards up to $500 if you refer someone they hire in one of their seven New Jersey restaurants.

Local chains like Wawa convenience store is trying to hire 5,000 new employees for the summer, and is offering a lot of cash to new recruits.

Wawa's director of operations says the plan to open 60 new stores to its 900 locations across six states required big bonuses.

"It is a big amount cash," Wawa's director of operations said. "It's $500 as a new-hire incentive. It's $300 if you decide to get your vaccine, and once you're working with us, bring us one of your friends and you get a $500 referral bonus as well."

Plus, employees get a free Shorti hoagie every shift, along with health insurance, employee stock options and an above minimum wage.

ALSO READ: Video shows NYPD transit officers rescue man who collapsed onto subway tracks
EMBED More News Videos

Derick Waller speaks to the hero officers in Chelsea.



MORE 7 ON YOUR SIDE | Why it's more important than ever for women to be involved in finances
EMBED More News Videos

Nina Pineda has tips for women on how to strive for financial freedom as we come out of the pandemic.



----------
SHARE YOUR STORY

Do you have an issue with a company that you haven't been able to resolve? If so, 7 On Your Side wants to help you!

Fill out the form below or email your questions, issues, or story ideas by filling out the form below or by emailing 7OnYourSideNina@abc.com. All emails MUST INCLUDE YOUR NAME AND CELLPHONE NUMBER. Without a phone number, 7 On Your Side will not be able to respond.
Copyright © 2021 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.