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Ky. restaurant owners hopeful for workers as federal unemployment benefits expire

Federal unemployment benefits, including the $300 per week payment, are expiring Monday.
Federal unemployment benefits, including the $300 per week payment, are expiring Monday.
Published: Sep. 6, 2021 at 6:09 PM EDT
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ASHLAND, Ky. (WSAZ) - Federal unemployment benefits, including the $300 per week payment, are expiring Monday.

The programs expiring are:

- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provides the weekly $300 payment.

- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides benefits for those who would not usually qualify, including the self-employed, gig workers and part-time workers.

- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides an extension of benefits once regular benefits have been exhausted.

Kentucky restaurant owners such as Jason Camp, who co-owns Smokin J’s and The Winchester, hope this is they key to get people back to work.

“It’s time to go back. I think the unemployment incentive lasted way longer than it should have. We should have been getting people back to work four or five months ago,” Camp said.

Camp says in the last three months he’s hired more than 50 people and receives at least 20 to 30 applications each week.

He says while he’s seeing more people willing to work, the need is still great and he will be looking to hire more people as he’s opening a new restaurant at Camp Landing.

“With that we need to hire another 80 to 100 people, so being able to move forward and get past this federal stipend, and like I said get people back to work,” said Camp.

While he is seeing more people willing to work, he says other restaurants in the area have not been as fortunate, and there are hundreds of jobs available just in Boyd County.

“All have one common theme. It’s all the service industry, and with the service industry we’ll kind of hire anybody and everybody if you want to come in and work hard,” Camp said.

More than 20 states ended these federal benefits months ago including West Virginia, but Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says the states that ended them early did not see much change in their workforce. He said it’s a more complicated issue.

“Too much of our workforce can’t work because they’re not healthy enough, and that’s an area that we need to address and child care is huge. It’s huge,” Beshear said. “As we look going forward, certainly we’re dumping a lot of money, and it needs to be into encouraging more providers and expansion of providers.”

Beshear says child care, disability and baby boomers retiring are just three key pieces to the workforce shortage.

“These are folks that worked 40 years in the same job or more, and that’s really hard to replace, and it’s all happening at the same time. It probably would have never happened, but COVID came around and that changed people’s mind,” he said. “I think we’re all as a community coming realize the more complicated nature of what we’re facing.”

Federal unemployment benefits are expired, but people will still receive their state benefits after Monday.

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