Businesses struggle to hire, worried $1,500 incentive to return to work won’t be long-term fix
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Throughout the last 15 months, restaurants have been among the businesses hit the hardest. Many of them are starting to see more customers, but they are facing staffing issues.
For the past three and a half months, business has been booming at One Nineteen West Main in LaGrange.
“March came around and it was like a light switch flipped,” owner Jason Kinser said. “All of our customers came back and we have been cranking ever since.”
Kinser said the past year, however, was excruciating.
“We bled money and bled money,” he said. “Even going into January and February of this year, it got to the point where, OK this hasn’t turned around. It was really rough. It was on the edge of this isn’t sustainable.”
Kinser said he started to breath again and his stress level was decreasing, until recently as he’s trying to find staff.
“It’s always been a little bit of a challenge but now that’s tenfold,” he said.
He told WAVE 3 News he has been getting some applicants, but there’s no follow-through after he reaches out to them.
“People will apply,” he said. “They’ll come in and put in an application online, stop by or whatever, when we respond to them, they never answer the phone, we never hear from them again, nothing. Sometimes we do hear back after we get back to them, and they answer ‘Oh my gosh I’m so excited, I can’t wait to start. See you tomorrow at 10 a.m. Very excited to start and learn everything in the kitchen and you know be a server’ and they never show up. That seems to be the case over and over again.”
The staffing issue came to a head this week, and Kinser had to close the restaurant for two days.
“It was a very difficult decision, however, the employees I have here, especially in the kitchen, I didn’t want to burn out,” Kinser said. “They’ve been working a lot, and we’ve been busy.”
The state announced Thursday a new back-to-work $1,500 incentive to motivate unemployed Kentuckians to return to work.
To qualify for the back to work incentive, people must have a valid and open unemployment claim, they must have received benefits in weeks in 2021, they must be 18 or older, they must return to work by July 30 and work a total of 120 hours in the first four weeks. All of these requirements will be verified by the state and the employer to prevent fraud.
Kinser said he is concerned that after those four weeks, some may leave and try to go back on unemployment.
“It takes two weeks to train them and then two more weeks they are gone, so that’s a concern, too,” he said. “We’ve yet to see how that’s going to play out.”
He said he hopes that’s not the case, and he’s hoping more people will apply so he can add more servers and kitchen staff to the restaurant.
The restaurant has been featured on Secrets of Bluegrass Chefs, Cooking Channel, Food Network, “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.”
“Our menu is very diverse,” Kisner said. “We’re an excellent training restaurant, so you can really learn a lot.”
For employment opportunities at One Nineteen West Main, call (502) 222-1246.
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