Local businesses discuss pandemic unemployment programs ending in Virginia

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BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – As several pandemic unemployment programs expire this weekend, some local businesses are hoping it means more people will come back to work.

“I think that it’s tough for people to leave unemployment if they’re making more on unemployment than they would have on an entry-level job,” Deel said.

While additional federal unemployment benefits under the CARES act ended months ago in Tennessee, that’s now the story in Virginia as well.

Burger Bar Owner Joel Deel said that he’s been dealing with a staff shortage since the pandemic started. Before COVID-19 Deel said he operated with 13 employees, now it’s about nine.

“I used to have five, six people a day come in looking for a job,” Deel said. “It’s not about pay. I’ve raised my pay. I’ve never paid minimum wage. We’ve always paid more, and it doesn’t matter how much I pay.”

It’s forced him to only operate five days a week instead of moving to his summer hours six days a week this year.

State Street Brewing Company has faced a similar situation. Manager Sarah Dickson said she’s fully staffed now, but just a week ago out of 14 job interviews she had lined up, only three showed up.

“I just feel like some people are still able to get unemployment, so they’re just showing that they’re trying, and they didn’t necessarily want to work here,” Dickson said.

However, something could change that soon. Starting this weekend, those who are collecting state unemployment benefits will no longer receive an extra 300 dollars each week in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.

“Having quality people come in and actually work and want to work is going to benefit downtown and Bristol itself because people want to come out again,” Dickson said.

Deel said he isn’t sure if rolling back pandemic unemployment programs is the right decision or not.

“At this time it would be a tough call,” Deel said. “With COVID numbers going up, as a business I would say yes, as a person on the street, I would have to question that.”

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