You might think that after 12 months of pandemic the biggest problem facing restaurants in El Paso would be getting customers to come back. This isn’t the case, though, according to numerous managers I’ve spoken to. The biggest challenge, they say, is staffing. Specifically, finding enough people to work as servers, line cooks and dishwashers and bussers.

The biggest issue, some claim, is that unemployment benefits have become TOO generous.

“Why would someone want to come in and work 40 hours a week when they can make more than that by just staying home?” was a comment that I heard more than once from a few different sources.

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Could this be accurate? Is it possible that hospitality and service workers are getting too much money for being out of work?

According to a USA Today/El Paso Times story, workers laid off because of Covid-19 can receive $300 per week in federal money…in ADDITION to whatever they’re getting in Texas unemployment benefits (state unemployment can be anywhere from under a hundred dollars to over five hundred per week, based on the persons pre-pandemic salary.)

Just to play that out a little bit, a laid-off worker on the high end of state unemployment could be making $42,000 a year by NOT working. Another thing to consider, for servers and bartenders, fewer customers means less in tips so staying on the unemployment rolls may seem like a no-brainer.

For those who do want to work, one restaurant manager says a job shouldn’t be hard to find. “We have help-wanted signs up on our front door. We’re thinking about buying ads on social media because the situation is so desperate.

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