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Michigan looks to address worker shortage as state fully reopens

Posted at 6:15 AM, Jun 23, 2021

Michigan is officially back open, and while many are happy about getting back to normal, some businesses are facing serious challenges, especially when it comes to staffing.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau of Labor Statistics, the leisure and hospitality industry in the U.S. added more than 341,000 jobs in April alone.

Meanwhile, unemployment is sitting at 4.9%, and the current shortage is something employers and the state are trying to fix.

Jack Erdman, the general manager at Rogers Roost in Sterling Heights, says it's great restrictions are fully lifted but it now presents a whole new batch of problems.

"We are struggling with keeping the doors open," he said. "We are at full capacity again. All our tables are open and ready to go, but we don't have the staff to serve all these people that come in. Establishments like bars, restaurants, and entertainment businesses can now operate at 100 percent."

He also said he doesn't have the stuff to do parties and maintain good service. "It's a double-edged sword. You're happy to be busy, but you can't take all the business you'd normally, because you're operating down 35 percent."

To entice people back to work, the state reinstated the work-search requirement for people collecting unemployment. Requirements that a person on unemployment attest that they were looking for a job had not been required during the pandemic.

Michigan Republican lawmakers are also considering ending the extra $300 a week in federal unemployment pay.

Next, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has a plan to give a $300 a week bonus to specific employees who were laid off during the pandemic. Funding would come from federal unemployment money.

Last, the state has also created the Michigan Small Business Restart Program, which plans to invest $100 million to help restaurants and other businesses costs. Each establishment would receive a grant of up to $20,000 for rent, mortgage, payroll, and more.

"We need jobs that pay higher wages to attract applicants," Whitmer said. "Small businesses need capital to ramp up hiring and boost investment in their internal investments."

Whitmer also has the MI Bigger Paychecks Plan, which would assign $300 million to encourage businesses to increase wages to $15 per hour.