APOPKA, Fla. - A "NOW HIRING" sign has been sitting outside Steve White’s restaurant for six weeks.
"I’ve never had it where there wasn’t people like trying to get a job," White said. "Right now, I just need line cooks."
Two full-time line cooks to be exact to help prepare barbeque and sides at Porkie’s Original BBQ in Apopka.
"You’ve got to be good at it to do it because it’s fast-paced pace," White added.
Right now, he cannot find anyone to hire.
"There’s just nobody coming out at all. Not even the people you don’t want to hire. Nobody, nobody is coming in," White said.
Thousands of cars pass his sign every day. He’s posted the positions on online job boards, social media and he’s called around. In his 45 years in the business, he’s never experienced anything like this.
"All I had to do before is just put the word out, you know ‘Hey, anybody looking for a job?’"
White has been filling in doing the work of the two positions he’s trying to fill. While exhausting, it was working until last weekend when he came down with coronavirus. Now he’s desperate.
"Now that I’ve got this COVID, I can’t go," he said in an interview via Zoom with FOX 35 News.
Porkie’s isn’t the only restaurant having issues staffing their kitchen.
"I’ve never seen the job market so thin. I’m in a couple of groups, Orlando Chef’s and stuff, and everybody is having the same problems," White said.
Florida’s unemployment rate is now at 6.3%, half what it was in May when bars were closed and indoor dining wasn’t allowed. While people need jobs, some are telling him it doesn’t pay enough to work.
"You get unemployment now, you can make a pretty good living. It’s hard to get them off the couch," White said.
Public policy expert and community activist Vanessa Brito confirms that White is dealing with an industry-wide challenge.
"When it comes to hospitality hotel and restaurant industry have been hit tremendously," Brito said.
She blames the unemployment system.
"Really the issue is with the unemployment infrastructure, not the claimants' desire to go back to work," she said.
Brito said on average the restaurant workers she’s helping are now making around $500 a week on unemployment.
"Two-hundred dollars a week on average [from the state of Florida], and plus the $300 supplement [from the federal government]," she explains.
White said he’s willing to start a full-time line cook at $13 per hour. Do the math: 13x40= $520 a week. That’s just $20 more than what many are making not working on unemployment.
"I can tell you none of these claimants want to be on unemployment," Brito said.
People can receive unemployment for up to 50 weeks. On Friday, after President Biden signs the latest COVID relief bill into law, many will be able to stay on unemployment for up to 79 weeks. Because of the pandemic, in most cases, the unemployed do not need to show proof that they are actively looking for work. That rule does not go back into play until April 24.
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