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As certain unemployment benefits get ready to end, business owners hopeful staff can be filled

Published: Jun. 9, 2021 at 7:06 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Next month a federal unemployment benefit will not be delivered to Tennessee’s unemployed. Governor Bill Lee opted the state out of it with the hopes it will get people back to work.

The service industry is still struggling to hire employees, and on Wednesday State Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton was in Memphis to come up with solutions.

One of Memphis’ newest views of the riverfront, Beale Street’s Hyatt Centric Hotel, was the spot for Speaker Sexton’s meeting with local business leaders.

Already, this hotel has felt the weight of an under staffed workforce.

“This past weekend we couldn’t open all our rooms even though we had demand for it simply because we didn’t have enough house keeping staff,” the hotel’s developer, Chance Carlisle, said.

Carlisle called the issues of hiring a full workforce multi faceted. Part of it is health.

“More people are vaccinated and now more people are comfortable coming out,” Carlisle said.

He expects to see more applicants once an extra $300 a week federal unemployment benefit ends next month. Speaker Sexton is confident it will boost the workforce.

“Other states that have done that they’ve seen quadruple or ten fold the number of applicants in jobs they’re looking for,” Sexton (R-Crossville) said.

Gov. Lee opted Tennessee out of the ongoing benefit, which means it will end on July 3.

“The hospitality industry has been affected the most,” Sexton said. “Every time you see a stimulus check go out or the weekly unemployment benefits you see people not showing up to work, not applying to work.”

“It’s not necessarily people are just sitting at home,” Tennessee Senator Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) said. “Some people just don’t want to be in the service industry anymore because of low pay and long hours.”

Tennessee follows the federal minimum wage which hasn’t been raised in over a decade. Senator Akbari hopes employers will create jobs with sustainable living wages.

“I saw an add for a restaurant downtown that will provide healthcare and matching 401k benefits,” Akbari said.

“I’ll take the private economy and companies finding out what’s the right bargain for workers,” Carlisle said. “Absolutely workers have a lot more say today.”

Governor Lee says more than 200,000 jobs are open in the state. This year a bill for Tennessee to create its own minimum wage was never heard in committee.

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