"Help Wanted" signs are prevalent around the Tri-State Area and the nation as the country emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, and businesses like the Empress Diner are anxious to get back to working around the clock.
The diner had to reduce staff, hours and time of operation during the pandemic, but now that the recovery is underway, many business owners are struggling to find employees.
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Owners have raised salaries in hopes of attracting more applicants, but they say it's still tough.
The state's unemployment rate has dropped from the pandemic high of 16% down to less than 8%, but that's still high in a job market that is hot.
Some of the potential workers still out are having child care issues, while others are making more sitting at home collecting unemployment than they did while working. Still others have moved on to new fields.
Congressman Josh Gottheimer wants to use money from the American Rescue Plan to give workers an incentive.
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"To award $500 bonuses to those currently receiving unemployment benefits if they return to work by August 1 and are still on the job on September 1," he said. "States like Connecticut and Colorado have already implemented similar programs."
The Empress Diner was open 24 hours a day before the pandemic, but now, it is only open 12 hours because of the worker shortage. It once had 20 employees, but now, they only have 12.
"Again, if you come back to work by August 1, we should give you a $500 back-to-work incentive if you stay on the job at least through September 1," Gottheimer said.
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