Biden tells restaurant owner those struggling to find staff will have better wages

Joe Biden has told entrepreneurs struggling to hire workers that they should pay better wages because he appeared to admit that the pandemic surge in unemployment benefits made it harder to find workers.

The president was asked at a CNN town hall on Wednesday night by an Ohio restaurant owner how he planned to solve the personnel crisis in his industry and others.

John Lanni, co-founder of Cincinnati-based Thunderdome Restaurant Group, which has 39 restaurants nationwide, said they were struggling to find employees.

‘I think it’s really a matter of people deciding now that they can do other things and there’s a staff shortage; people want to make more money and negotiate,” Biden says.

“So I think your business and the tourism business will be in trouble for a while.”

John Lanni, the co-owner of a restaurant group with 39 locations across the country, asked Joe Biden Wednesday night what the president could do to help him find more staff for his restaurants. Biden replied that wages should go up

Biden addressed multiple topics at Ohio City Hall hosted by CNN host Don Lemon

Biden addressed multiple topics at Ohio City Hall hosted by CNN host Don Lemon

Smart camera angles showed a full house, but reporters noticed many empty seats.  A CNN spokesperson said the crowd was customary in front of their town halls.  It was unclear whether this was due to the pandemic

Smart camera angles showed a full house, but reporters noticed many empty seats. A CNN spokesperson said the crowd was customary in front of their town halls. It was unclear whether this was due to the pandemic

He added: “John, I think people get seven, $8 an hour plus tips, that’s — I think, John, you’re going to find $15 an hour or more now. But you may already be paying that. You may already be paying that.’

The president spoke to a surprisingly empty room at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati.

Flattering camera angles hid the small crowd from viewers at home, but reporters traveling with Biden tweeted photos of the empty seats.

Donald Trump, who held large rallies during much of the pandemic, often taunted Biden in front of small crowds, who on the campaign trail, Biden pursued a deliberate policy to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

It is unclear whether the hall was half full due to concerns about the virus or a lack of public interest. A White House official referred an investigation to CNN.

CNN spokeswoman Lauren Pratapas told: The New York Post: “This was a typical audience size for a CNN town hall.”

She did not elaborate on the reason for the small crowd.

At the height of the pandemic, Trump passed a bill that would add a $300 weekly allowance to unemployment benefits, and expand federal unemployment programs to provide benefits to freelancers, the self-employed, independent contractors and certain people affected by the coronavirus and for those who have exhausted their regular state benefits.

US states that prematurely ended federal unemployment benefits saw a bigger jump in local labor supply in June - above people stood outside a newly reopened career center for personal appointments in Louisville

US states that prematurely ended federal unemployment benefits saw a bigger jump in local labor supply in June – above people stood outside a newly reopened career center for personal appointments in Louisville

The 26 States Are Ending Early Unemployment Benefits

More than two dozen states have shut down or plan to end the additional $300 in federal unemployment assistance that many Americans have received to help them weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funds were renewed in the US $1.9 trillion bailout, which was passed in March.

But some states have decided to end the benefits early as some business owners complain that they are trying to fill jobs.

Here are the states and the date the benefits end there:

Alaska June 12

Missouri June 12

Mississippi June 12

Iowa June 12

Alabama June 19

Idaho June 19

*Indiana June 19

Nebraska June 19

New Hampshire June 19

North Dakota June 19

West Virginia June 19

Wyoming June 19

Arkansas June 26

Florida June 26

Georgia June 26

Montana June 26

Ohio June 26

Oklahoma June 26

South Carolina June 26

South Dakota June 26

Texas June 26

Utah June 26

Maryland July 3

Tennessee July 3

Arizona July 10

Louisiana August 3

Citing staff shortages, 26 states have prematurely terminated and extended twice at least one of the three pandemic unemployment insurance programs that Congress enacted in March 2020. The Biden administration has said governors can restart the programs if they choose.

Lanni told him, “We employ hundreds of hard-working team members throughout the state of Ohio and across the country. We are trying to hire more people every day as we try to restart our restaurant business.

‘The entire industry, among others, continues to struggle with finding employees.

“How do you and the Biden administration plan to encourage those who are not yet employed? Renting is now our top priority.’

Biden seemed to accept that the extra unemployment benefits may have discouraged people from working.

State-level job data released earlier this month shows that in the 26 states that cut benefits early in June, an additional 174,000 entered the workforce either by taking jobs or seeking work, compared with 47,000. in the other states.

The numbers are small at a national workforce of 161 million and come with a caveat: Job growth in both groups of states was about the same.

“No kidding aside, I think it’s really a matter of people deciding now that they have options to do other things and there’s a shortage of workers, people want to make more money and negotiate,” Biden said.

“So I think your business and the tourism business will be in trouble for a while.

‘One of the things.

“We’re going to end all those things that keep people from going back to work, and so on.

“It’ll be interesting to see what happens, but my gut tells me, my gut tells me part of it has to do with, you know, you can make a good salary as a waiter or waitress.”

He said his sister-in-law in Atlantic City was a waitress and was doing well. He told how his late wife Neilia’s father tried to convince him to take over their restaurant in Syracuse, New York, but Biden saw how hard the work was.

“Evidence suggests that keeping the option of not staying — paying your rent so you don’t get thrown out, and being able to provide unemployment insurance — has deterred people from going back to work.”

A 'Now Hiring' sign advertising jobs at a hand wash is seen along a street in Miami, Florida in 2020

A ‘Now Hiring’ sign advertising jobs at a hand wash is seen along a street in Miami, Florida in 2020

Asked directly by the host, Don Lemon, if he accepted that unemployment benefits discouraged people from finding work, Biden protested.

“I don’t think it did much,” the president said.

“It is said that because the extended unemployment benefits kept people at home.”

Lemon asked, “Don’t you think it did?”

Biden replied, “I see no evidence that it has had any serious impact.

‘You can discuss it.

“Let’s assume it was. It’s coming to an end. It’s not like we’re in a situation where if that was it and it ends, John won’t have a problem.’

Biden reneged on his argument that companies were not paying living wages, which is why they struggled to find employees.

“One of my programs is to make sure we get four more years of free school, two years for three-year-olds and four-year-olds, because it’s been shown to significantly increase success and community college,” he said.

“Those people probably won’t want to be waiters. There is nothing wrong with being a waiter or waitress, my family has been involved in that business.

“If you earn less than $15 an hour and work 40 hours a week, you live below the poverty line. You live below the poverty line.’

John Lanni asked Biden how he could improve the situation for entrepreneurs struggling to find enough employees genoeg

John Lanni asked Biden how he could improve the situation for entrepreneurs struggling to find enough employees genoeg

He also told Lanni that he and his fellow restaurant owners should be grateful for the grants they’ve received: “We’ve kept you open. We spent billions of dollars trying to keep restaurants open.”

He said it was “the right thing to do.”

Lanni, a registered Republican, told: The Cincinnati Enquirer that he was unhappy with Biden’s response, adding that, with tips, they pay at least $15 in most cases.

“I hoped he would see that this is the dilemma of every sector,” he said afterwards.

‘We are in a labor crisis and we need to find a way to encourage people to go back to work. I just heard that restaurants will struggle and we’ll have to pay our employees more.

“It’s happening and it’s still not enough.”

Lanni said 80 to 90 percent of his company’s employees earn more than a living wage, if considered $15 an hour.

“I feel like he didn’t really answer the question,” Lanni said.

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