PHOENIX, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- In Arizona, roughly 33,000 people applied for unemployment benefits in the last week. More than 500,000 filed for unemployment in the last eight weeks. Nationwide, 36 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the last two months, but despite the growing number of unemployment claims, some small businesses in Arizona are having a hard time hiring workers.

Arizona restaurant chain struggles to fill staff as unemployment claims soar

"With an unemployment rate at almost 20%, you'd think we'd have a lot of applicants coming in, but we're not," said Times Square Italian Restaurant owner Paullette Cano.

Cano said it's because of the federal CARES act, which adds $600 weekly on top of the state's unemployment check. Cano said her furloughed employees told her they make more money from staying at home than they do from working at her restaurant.

"They don't want to come back to work," said Cano. "It's the unemployment. They're receiving about $840 a week, which puts them about $22 an hour."

Times Square has more than 30 openings because they furloughed dozens of positions across their three restaurants after Governor Doug Ducey shut down businesses to stop the spread of COVID-19. Their dining room is back open to guests, but their restaurants are short-staffed. Furthermore, if Cano cannot rehire the same amount of staff she once had, her loan from the Paycheck Protection Program will not be forgiven.

"You want to hire, and they're just not coming into the door," said Cano. She said the few that are filing job applications are asking for more than $20 an hour, an equal pay of what they would receive from unemployment and federal dollars.

"They're asking for $20 an hour, which makes it difficult because we operate under slim margins," said Cano.

The federal CARES Act, which gives out an extra $600 weekly, is set to expire on July 31. Lawmakers in Washington D.C. are in talks of a new federal relief package. Until then and beyond, Cano said to stop by anyone of her three locations and apply for a job.

"In order for our country to get back to work, employees need to get back to work," said Cano.

 

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