LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — When the COVID-19 pandemic started and businesses were forced to close, the future was unpredictable. Employers say they never thought bringing back workers would be a problem they would run into.
Lola Pokorny brought New Orleans-style cuisine to Las Vegas.
“Whether it be deep South, Creole, deep South Cajun … I love Louisiana, and I love Louisiana cuisine,” she shared with 8 News Now. “I am from Louisiana; I did catering here for 15 to 17 years before opening Lola’s downtown.”
Pokorny opened Lola’s Louisiana Kitchen, with a location in Summerlin and Downtown Las Vegas.
“My first-born restaurant permanently closed, and it is not due to COVID. It is due to the aftermath of COVID,” she explained, “so, you could say … it is a COVID victim. We are not able to staff it.”
The restaurant owner says they couldn’t find people to work at the downtown location. She tells us it is still challenging with staffing in Summerlin, too.
And, just when Pokorny thinks she will get some new hires:
“We ask them, ‘Are you taking this interview only to extend your unemployment?’ and they will tell us, ‘Yes.’ So, we know they are not going to show up.”
The extra $300 weekly benefits are continuing for many states, including Nevada. Some say the extra money is stopping people from heading back to work.
“At this point, I think 24 governors have suspended payment of federal benefits,” said Christopher O’Leary, a senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
He notes the extra benefits could play a role but may not be the only reason why hiring is difficult.
“Other factors come into play, like cost of housing in certain areas,” O’Leary explained. “Whether or not it is the unemployment benefits or the additional benefits, we will have to wait and see when it ends.”
The extra benefits are set to end in September.
“I would have tons of people apply for the job; 90% of them didn’t qualify,” Alexandria Lightning, a nurse practitioner, told us. “The 10% who did, I would set up interviews, maybe 10 interviews, but out of the 10, only one or two would show up.”
She opened a medical practice in Henderson during the pandemic, and hiring hasn’t been easy for her, either. She is getting creative with the jobs she does have.
“Traditionally, we do have everybody on site, but one of my main leads, my office manager, I actually do allow her to work home remotely, so she can still have that work home life that she desires,” Lightning said.
Businesses across the valley are finding themselves in the same boat, with hiring signs out. Time will tell if the lingering problem will disappear.
“This is happening countrywide,” Pokorny pointed out. “It has got to come to an end; no one can tell us when that is going to happen.”
Gov. Steve Sisolak weighed in on the hiring issues during a small business roundtable, saying it is a multi-faceted issue. He notes the extra benefits unemployment claimants are receiving may be playing a role for some, but he thinks there is a bigger issue.
“One of the problems that exists is that the minimum wage was way too low for way too long, and people were just not making enough money. And now, some of the businesses are recognizing,” the governor said. “Coming out, I am hearing this from restaurant and bar owners. It is not the tip jobs they are having a problem with; it is the non-tip jobs.”
Sisolak says the discussion on how to address the hiring problem is ongoing. From childcare to funding, they’re looking to overcome the hurdles people are facing when going back to work.