Too little pay or too much unemployment? NYC business owners say it’s tough to hire

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NEW YORK — As the COVID recovery continues, there is a fierce debate raging about what it will take to get people back to work.

With unemployment just above 6%, but less job growth in April than expected, some are blaming enhanced unemployment benefits for incentivizing people not to go back to work.

At Paul’s Da Durger Joint in the East Village, business is slowly coming back.  But owner Jose Amigon says he really hasn’t rehired much staff after cutting way down during the pandemic and he has found it tough to hire lately.

“Sometimes they don’t show up,” Amigon said.  “Sometimes they’re drunk, there’s a lot of things.”

The conservative business lobby U.S. Chamber of Commerce said extra unemployment benefits into September are part of the problem.

“Based on the Chamber’s analysis, the $300 benefit results in approximately one in four recipients taking home more in unemployment than they earned working,” the Chamber said in a statement.

Progressive New Yorker City Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez critiqued that view in a response on Twitter.

“If Unemployment Insurance is greater than wages, the solution is to actually pay people a living wage,” she tweeted.

President Joe Biden also addressed unemployment Monday while speaking about jobs and the economy.

“I think the people who say Americans will not work even if they find a good and fair opportunity underestimate the American people,” Biden said.  “So we will insist the rules of the benefits are followed, but we’re not going to turn our back on our fellow Americans.”

But at Paul’s Da Durger Joint, Amigon said getting jobs back is more complicated than benefits.  He is still digging out of a financial hole, and needs business to continue to improve before he can truly commit to more full time staff.

“It’s like a roller coaster,” he said of business of late.

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