managing partners Greg Holcombe and Anthony Shorrosh said since the pandemic, they have been struggling to hire and retain workers despite offering incentives. The restaurant has several locations, including one in Willis, which is in need of about 15 additional employees, they said. “We had seven interviews set up [at one of our locations] confirmed, and not one employee showed up ... to actually interview for the job,” Shor- rosh said. The duo said they believe the sit- uation is the government’s fault, not employees. When most businesses, schools and day care were closed, stay- ing at home and being paid unemploy- ment made sense to many people, and it could be hard to transition back into the workforce, Holcombe said. “I was competing with the govern- ment to hire,” Shorrosh said. “About 50% of the people that are actually filling out applications [now] have no intention to even come to work; they just want to extend the unemploy- ment benefit.” Opting out In his statement about opting out of the unemployment assistance pro- gram, Abbott said the state should help
unemployed Texans get jobs rather than paying unemployment benefits. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, there were nearly 60% more jobs open in Texas in May than there were in February 2020, the month before the pandemic hit Texas. “The Texas economy is booming, and employers are hiring,” Abbott said May 17. “The number of job openings
Abbott’s decision to opt out of the federal program had mixed reactions. Reid and Danielle Scheiner, execu- tive director for the Conroe Economic Development Council, said they antic- ipate it could help. Scheiner added the council is redoubling its efforts to inform people of skills training oppor- tunities that are available. Meanwhile, Lewis likened cutting
according to the Labor Law Center. “For so long, the employer has been in the role of power, and they have the ability to leverage and negotiate sal- ary and wages down because people need to work,” he said. “Now we’re in a position where the tide has shifted and you’re seeing power in the hands of employees and workers to be able to decide whether this job fits their needs and their skill set.” However, Abbott’s May 17 news release stated about 76%of posted jobs pay more than $11.50 per hour, and 2% pay around the minimum wage, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. Efrain Lucas, general manager for the Cozy Grape, a wine bar in Mont- gomery, said when it first opened nine years ago, the business paidminimum wage, but wages have been steadily increasing, and it now offers upward of $12 an hour. “Maybe some people are afraid [to return to work]. I get that, but enough is enough,” he said. Anna Lotz and Brooke Ontiveros contributed to this report.
FOR SO LONG, THE EMPLOYERHAS BEEN IN THE ROLE OF POWER. NOWWE’RE IN APOSITIONWHERE ... YOU’RE SEEING POWER IN THE HANDS OF EMPLOYEES. JONATHAN LEWIS, SENIOR POLICY ANALYST WITH EVERY TEXAN
in Texas is almost identical to the number of Texans who are receiving unemployment benefits.” Abbott also cited fraudulent unem- ployment claims as a reason for end- ing the program. According to the governor’s office, nearly 18% of all claims for unemployment benefits during the pandemic are confirmed or suspected to be fraudulent. This totals more than 800,000 claims— worth as much as $10.4 billion, if all claims had been paid.
off federal benefits to “shooting your- self in the foot.” “It doesn’t serve the Texas econ- omy to force people into lower-pay- ing jobs than what they were earning before,” he said. Lewis said a lack of affordable child care and matching skill sets as well as inadequate wages are all barriers to entering the workforce. Texas’ min- imum wage has remained at $7.25 since at least 2010 despite the national average growing from $7.41 to $9.21,
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