Evansville businesses struggling to find workers

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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – Governor Eric J. Holcomb announced Monday that Indiana will end its participation in all federally funded pandemic unemployment insurance programs effective June 19, 2021.

“It is almost impossible to find employees to work and come in and do their job,” said Angelo’s Italian Restaurant Owner Angelo Jawabreh. “For some reason I used to have 10 to 15 applications every month pre-COVID, and now I have almost none, almost zero.” 

Jawabreh opened Angelo’s Italian Restaurant in downtown Evansville in 1992. He said in the wake of the pandemic, many people took advantage of government help, leaving businesses like his to suffer with few employees.

“They get a lot of money from the government and to them it’s much easier to sit at home collecting the money than working,” Jawabreh said.

At the Salvation Army in Evansville, 2020 was full of money and grants to help people in need during the pandemic. Now officials are gearing up for what is to come when those benefits expire.

“Now whenever they get rid of unemployment, it’s going to leave several people who may not have jobs waiting for them,” said The Salvation Army Volunteer & Food Program Coordinator Alex Rahman. “They may not have something to go back to and we may have more people fall through the cracks, maybe another crack they are falling through.”

Officials say if anyone needs help there are many resources available in the community.

“I’m sure we are going to get a lot more phone calls with people asking, a lot of people weighing out their options,” Rahman said. “I encourage that because you never know what kind of help is out there until you ask.”

With just a month of COVID-19 unemployment benefits, owners alike just say they are ready to get people back to work.

“If (unemployment benefits) stop it’s going to force people to come and look for a jobs and again I’m not against unemployment, I want people to get their money and survive and pay their bills, I’m 100 percent for that,” Jawabreh said. “At the same time, if people can work why not work and make money the right way.”

The governor added that Indiana’s unemployment rate jumped to more than 17% at the height of the pandemic, and has now recovered to 3.9%. Holcomb said more Hoosiers are in the workforce now than a year ago, and the labor force participation rate is nearing the pre-pandemic level.

Indiana isn’t alone; it’s joining a handful of republican-led states in ending participation in federal unemployment insurance.

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