MASON CITY, Iowa - Governor Kim Reynolds says it's time for everyone who is able to get back to work to do so.
Citing a strong labor market, a low 3.7% unemployment rate and a recovering economy, she's ending the state's participation several pandemic-related unemployment benefit programs. The week ending June 12 will be the last week the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation programs are available in Iowa. This means people will no longer receive their weekly $300 supplement after that date.
The decision comes to address a worker shortage; the U.S. Department of Labor reported over 8 million job openings nationally in March for the first time ever. In particular, the restaurant and service industry lost 2.5 million workers during the height of the pandemic, according to the National Restaurant Association.
When service was limited to take-out only last year, Blue Heron Bar & Grill owner Vickie Lau had to lay off four workers that only worked just a couple days a week, though she was able to later bring them back.
"They had other full time jobs. They were very gracious, and they said, 'let the other girls who rely on this job as their only employment.'"
Although she currently has 19 staffers, the increase in business is having Lau looking for help.
"When we first opened back up when the shots were going through, you can definitely see the end of March where it really picked up in volume. As somebody that does the staffing, we don't really know, I call it the roller coaster. We try and staff heavy and if we don't need as many, we let them go for the evening. We have been working pretty hard with the limited staff that we have."
To make up for some schedule vacancies, some staffers hours have been extended, including covering both of the busy lunch and dinner rushes, though she is trying to keep a balance.
"I don't want to overload my schedule with extra people, and take away from the people who've been here."
There are a few qualifications for potential hires.
"We're always looking for good quality, experienced people that have the want to help others, because we're in a service industry. That is one of our requirements is that you're nice, and that you can handle some stress, because it does get pretty busy sometimes."
With an expected increase in business over the summer months, she asks customers to be patient.
"Everywhere is understaffed."
Governor Reynolds says Iowa will continue to provide regular state unemployment insurance benefits to anyone who qualifies.