As states begin to ease indoor dining restrictions, the food service industry is having a hard time hiring employees, a difficulty owners blame in part on the disincentivizing effects of supercharged federal unemployment benefits, which are paid to individuals on top of their state benefits.
The federal benefit that Congress created in response to the coronavirus pandemic was $600 per week, which amounted to $15 per hour before state benefits were added in.
The number of workers eligible for jobless benefits expanded during the pandemic. For the first time, self-employed workers are also able to collect unemployment benefits.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said recently that the $600 weekly supplemental jobless benefits were “very, very hard for any employer to replicate.”
After the $600 ended after July, 31 2020, former President Trump signed an executive order reinstating the federal jobless payment at $400. Later, Trump signed into law a $900 billion stimulus package, which lowered the federal payment to $300, where it has stayed ever since. President Biden’s American Rescue Plan originally called for a $400 payment, but the final package that passed the Senate last month was $300.
Eric Terry, president of the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging, and Travel Association, pointed to the unprecedented amount of the jobless payments as the reason for shortage of food industry employees.