HENDERSON, Ky. (WEHT) – Small Henderson small business owners to say they understand why there’s a labor shortage — and it has to do with the amount of unemployment benefits people are now able to collect.

Casey Todd owns Hometown Roots in Downtown Henderson. Covid-19 forced him to make a painful decision many businesses were faced with.

“You know, finding employees that are willing to work is an issue. So not only in the restaurant industry but really every industry out there, the struggle there,” said Todd.

He was forced to lay off 32 employees for two and a half months and had to close down temporarily due to Covid-19.

Another business just around the corner did the same.  But the owner tells us he’s well-aware of why it’s been hard to rebound. He says in some cases it pays to stay home waiting for those unemployment checks.

“I don’t blame you kind of work for $250 a week when you get maybe $400 for sitting at home doing nothing. It was a godsend starting out. But this, we need to start scaling back a little bit because everybody’s struggling for labor right now. And we need to get a workforce back out on the streets again,” said Rodney Thomas, owner of Rookies.

The proof of what some employers is in the math, Kentuckians made nearly 50-thousand unemployment claims in February. The average weekly payment was $335. People out of work could collect up to $560 per week.

Illinois payments average $373 per week but people can receive up to $505 under state law. While Indiana averages $258 per week with a cap of $390.

But an employee of Hometown Roots tells me she brought in more money on unemployment – but decided to come back to work anyway.

“I love working. So I have to always stay busy. So it was just easy decision. I love the environment and the people here,” said Isabella McChessney.

Rodney Thomas knows the unemployment claims money tree will not last forever.

“Well, it’s, it’s basically going to run out. So look for the good jobs right now,” he said.

Yet another obstacle some businesses say they’re facing is unemployment fraud.

Hometown Roots owner Casey Todd tells me they’re now on alert for people who are filing unemployment claims for places they’ve never worked.

(This story was originally published on April 16, 2021)