Georgia labor commissioner blames stimulus benefits for staffing shortages

State - Regional

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A lot of jobs, and not enough people to fill them: it’s a growing crisis Georgia’s labor commissioner says is impacting the entire country.

“You’re getting paid, say $15 an hour, $600 a week — that’s 40 hours a week. I mean, why come to work? That pays your bills,” Chris Emerick, the owner of Two Cracked Eggs Cafe explained.

Many local businesses in Savannah say there’s no incentive to work if you can make more money on unemployment.

“In a lot of cases, you can see somebody making twice as much on unemployment. And also, in some other cases, we’ve seen people actually triple or quadruple, especially people who do say seasonal jobs,” Commissioner Mark Butler of Georgia’s Department of Labor said as he described the crippling reality many are facing.

Butler said stimulus payments and unemployment assistance is forcing local businesses to drive up their hourly wages and offer incentives to get the workers they say aren’t applying.

“You could end up, when this is all over, with a lot more automation being invested in, a lot of business practices changing, where you can get by with using fewer people,” he added.

The labor commissioner said companies are seeing a major disruption in the supply chain.

“You’re seeing prices going up, you’re seeing businesses not being able to open because they can’t staff appropriately — especially when we talk about the restaurant industry,” Butler said. “That’s already bad right now. That’s going to continue to get worse.

“I think Washington needs to put the breaks and take a look at some of these policies and see if they’re doing more harm than good right now.”

If you are on unemployment, stated leaders say now is the time to jump back into the workforce.

“You could really change your life because this could be your chance to make a big leap for a long-term change,” Butler added.

He says unemployment benefits are only making the situation worse — encouraging federal officials to forego extending additional payments when it ends in September.

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