Pick up any newspaper and you often can read about the frustrations of small businesses being able to hire staff. Across America there’s seems to be a dearth of people wanting, needing, and willing to work.
Here in Key West, we repeatedly hear from business owners how they can’t fill positions needed to keep their small businesses running. Tourists are packing into sunny South Florida, but staffing has become increasingly difficult.
Last week, we, as we often do, were having oysters at our favorite local restaurant. During an especially busy lunch, while patrons continued to pour into the restaurant, the dishwasher discarded his apron and abruptly departed, evidently crying, no más and leaving the competent staff scrambling.
According to one experienced diner owner in Ohio, what Key West is experiencing is not just a localized phenomenon. For small businesses, it has become an epidemic.
Dale’s Diner is closing. Here’s one review from a social media site:
Parking is available but indicative of your wait – if it’s tough to find, I hope you are not too hungry to wait because it really is worth the wait. The service is top-notch and the restaurant is clean.
Kathryn Lopez in NRO explains why Bill and Liz Anderson (owners of Dale’s Diner) are closing their popular diner in Waterville, Ohio:
A line cook at Dale’s Diner starts at $11 per hour, up $2 per hour over what it was before the pandemic, according to Bill Anderson. That’s $440 per week or $1,760 per month—roughly $21,000 per year, not including overtime and bonuses.
But pandemic-driven unemployment often pays more—sometimes far more. In Ohio, according to data from the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, the state provided weekly unemployment benefits that averaged nearly $340. Add to that the unemployment supplements from the federal government—which have ranged between $300 and $600 per week, depending on which COVID relief law funded them—and you have some workers paid between $640 and $940 per week to stay home, between $33,000 and almost $50,000 on an annualized basis.
At the beginning of the pandemic, these enhanced unemployment payments made some sense. A primary objective as the virus spread was to keep workers from going to a job where they could become infected or infect others. So, getting employees to stay home was the point—or one of them.
Now, however, with vaccinations ramping up quickly and more Americans comfortable returning to pre-pandemic activities, these same workers are needed to get the economy moving and to keep businesses open. But with the extension of a policy designed to keep workers home, it’s not surprising that many of them are doing just that.
“What the government is doing doesn’t help,” Bill Anderson laments. “They are hurting this country. They are hurting our economy, and we are just one example.”
From Mr. Anderson in a note to patrons:
To our loyal customers: it has been Liz’s, mine and our entire staff’s great honor and privilege to have served you and gotten to know so many of you as friends over the past decade. It is with an extremely heavy heart that we make this decision but see no other way at this time. When the employment landscape changes, Dale’s Diner will be back.
If you’re willing to fight for Main Street America, click here to sign up for the Richardcyoung.com free weekly email.