Restaurants still face staffing shortages ahead of July reopening

Business

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The state is giving restaurants the go-ahead to reopen at full capacity when the state reopens Thursday. However, the ongoing worker shortage means many businesses will still be limited. Many restaurants are still hurting to find workers and say that could keep them from increasing business when the state reopens fully next week.

Help wanted signs are still plastered on and outside restaurants across Albuquerque. “It’s so bad that restaurants really don’t want to reopen fully on July 1st,” said Carol Wight, CEO of the New Mexico Restaurant Association.

Garcia’s Kitchen owner Dan Garcia will be expanding capacity indoors from 75% to 100% on Thursday, despite being short-staffed. “We’re still short like 50 or 60 people,” Garcia said.

Garcia says it’s unclear if he’ll have enough workers to reopen the restaurants on Mondays and Tuesdays and expand their hours on other days of the week just yet. “We’ve had to close some nights, we’ve had to close some days. You can only work employees so many days and give them so much overtime,” Garcia said.

“We do think a lot of the reason people aren’t coming back is because it’s fairly comfortable on unemployment,” Wight said.

As of late May, 76,000 New Mexicans were receiving unemployment benefits. People are also still getting the extra $300 a week of unemployment bonus from the federal government until the first week of September. “We understand the hesitancy of the governor to take away the federal enhancement,” Wight said.

Wight is urging the state to consider incentives to make people more likely to get back to work like the Colorado jumpstart program. “If you get a job now, in three months you get a bonus of $1,200,” Wight said.

Still, Garcia says he’s staying positive and is happy to be welcoming back more customers soon. “We’re going to keep going. We’re going to do the best we can,” Garcia said.

The New Mexico Restaurant Association says it’s expecting the labor shortage to continue throughout the summer. Adding now is the time to apply while many restaurants are offering bonuses and because there could be a rush of applicants when tose federal benefits run out. The governor has said it is time for New Mexicans to get back to work.

Friday, the governor’s office pointed to a federal reserve study that suggests the $300 benefit is not keeping people on unemployment longer than they would be otherwise. The following is the full statement from the governor’s office:

“The Federal Reserve studied this specifically and found that the $300 benefit is not keeping people on unemployment longer the $300 benefit is not keeping people on unemployment longer than they would be otherwise – “the value of a job significantly outweighs the benefit of temporary additional UI income.” Additionally, we are not seeing dramatic swings in unemployment in the states that have cut the $300 benefit – while some may try to say otherwise, such an assertion is not based in the reality of the job market. The best thing the state can do to assist both employers and those workers who are not yet ready to return to work for health or family reasons is to end the pandemic quickly, which is exactly what we’re doing, in addition to supporting New Mexico small businesses with grants and funding, making over $1 billion available for reopening and rehiring.

I’ll also note that the $300 supplement expires on September 5th regardless and requires a one-month notice per the federal program, my point being that any action to end the supplement and provide that month notice would only minimally advance the program’s end date – a program that, again, is not incentivizing people to stay on unemployment at the expense of finding a job.”

Nora Meyers Sackett, press secretary for the Office of the Governor

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