Labor shortage threatens Lake Area businesses

Updated: Jun. 12, 2021 at 12:00 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - As COVID restrictions relax, the need for workers only continues to grow. The Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance is urging state leaders to end enhanced unemployment payments in response to the increasing demand for labor.

There are more jobs available than unemployed workers in the five-parish region. The board of directors worries that continuing these enhanced payments will only keep people from seeking employment.

Governor John Bel Edwards said Thursday the extra $300 in weekly unemployment assistance may end sooner than Congress had originally planned.

“In any event, we had always looked at the 1st of August, so the 31st of July is not a bad compromise,” said Governor Edwards.

In efforts to direct attention to the increasing demand of labor, the SWLA Economic Development Alliance wrote to state leaders to end enhanced unemployment payments as quickly as possible. They fear the benefits are doing more harm than good.

“Businesses were closed during COVID,” said George Swift, CEO and president of the SWLA Economic Development Alliance. “We can certainly understand the need for extra assistance. Now that everything is almost open full speed, the big hindrance is getting workers on the job.”

One local business’s employees are burdened with longer shifts. Missy Pittman with KD’s Diner said they are having a difficult time finding people to hire.

“I’ve had applicants, but when I’ve called them, they don’t even answer the phone or return my calls or show up for an interview,” said Pittman.

KD’s Diner used to run 24 hours. Due to limited staffing, they have had to cut those hours. Pittman believes these incentives have hurt small businesses.

“It’s time to end that,” Pittman said. “Every place in this town has ‘now hiring’ signs.”

Although other states have already opted out of enhanced unemployment payments, the governor says he will make that decision very soon.

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