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SWFL restaurants struggling with staffing as unemployment benefits near end

Posted at 11:06 PM, May 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-28 23:06:22-04

ST. JAMES CITY, Fla. — The end of a federal program may be getting more Floridians back to work.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity announced Monday that Florida will end its participation in the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, marking the end of the $300 per week supplemental FPUC payment, effective June 26, 2021. It's part of the DEO’s ‘Return to Work’ initiative to help struggling industries find some much needed help in terms of staffing.

One of those industries that has seen a significant dip in employment is the hospitality industry. Restaurants have been hit the hardest, with plenty across Southwest Florida having trouble bringing in new hands.

It’s been a struggle. Restaurants trying to fill vacant positions as the public comes out of Covid-19 quarantine and return to their favorite watering hole. Froggy’s on Pine Island are just the latest to be feeling the ripple effect.

“Hopefully, by ending this free money, we will get people to come and look for jobs," says Romana Gavrinev, owner of Froggy’s. “Everywhere I’ve been for the last couple of weeks, everywhere you go you see signs on the doors in the windows. People are looking for workers. People are posting saying they are hiring and I think everybody is struggling with that. Everybody is looking for workers and, unfortunately, we cannot find any.”

According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, labor statistics for the month of April showed private-sector employment increased by 18,800 jobs. And yet…

“No, we had no applicants at all," said Gavrinev.

If finding new blood wasn’t already a challenge, try keeping the clientele satisfied. Plenty of products are in short supply as their demand has skyrocketed.

“There’s a lot of liquor, when I’m trying to order liquor, it’s not available," Gavrinev says. "Chicken prices are going up- it’s nearly impossible to get chicken wings. All the prices on everything are going up.”

While Froggy’s hasn’t had to cut any hours or close their doors, those within the restaurant industry are hopeful more help is on the way.

“That’s what I’m hoping for because we need people to work," says Gavrinev. "We need people in all of these industries, not just the restaurant industries but all industries.”

The last day to receive unemployment payments is June 26. In the meantime, Gavrinev says Froggy’s is still hiring.

You can find more information about employment opportunities online right here.

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