CT businesses can’t find workers; say special COVID unemployment benefits are to blame


MIDDLEBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Some Connecticut businesses are finding it nearly impossible to find workers. Owners are blaming the special COVID-19 pandemic unemployment benefits being offered to those out of work.

Sue Cummings owns Meet Me Here Restaurant and Bar in Middlebury. She has to shut down for a week for the July 4 holiday because her chef is going on vacation.

“And I have no one to help out so I need to close for the week,” Cummings said.

A shortage of workers is crippling many Connecticut restaurants and businesses. Cummings blames unemployment benefits given out during the pandemic to the unemployed not looking for work because of COVID concerns.

RELATED: With return to ‘new normal’ post-pandemic, restaurants facing new challenge hiring staff to come back to work

Senor Panchos Mexican restaurant down the street also had to shut down on Monday due to a shortage of workers. The owner says his other restaurants in Prospect and Southbury had to reduce the number of open days for the same reason.

“Too much free money is being given out,” Cummings said. “It has to stop. No one wants to work because they’re still collecting unemployment.”

Right now, the state is offering $300 a week to the unemployed. To try and get people back to work, Gov. Ned Lamont recently announced a $1,000 signing bonus to anyone who gets a full-time job and keeps it for eight weeks.

Businesses are starting to follow suit. The Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Waterbury has advertised a $500 signing bonus for new employees.

Cummings tells News 8 even she gave it a go.

“I put out ads for a $1,000 signing bonus to stay six months,” she said. “I did not get one response. No one wants to work while they’re collecting.”

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