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KY back-to-work bonus: Did it work?

Additional unemployment benefits and pandemic benefits will run out in Kentucky on Sept. 6
Gov. Beshear offered a $1,500 back-to-work bonus for the first 15,000 Kentuckians who find a job.
Gov. Beshear offered a $1,500 back-to-work bonus for the first 15,000 Kentuckians who find a job.(Giorgio Trovato | Unsplash)
Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 3:58 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 29, 2021 at 7:07 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - July 30 is the last day unemployed Kentuckians need to start a job to qualify for Gov. Andy Beshear’s $1,500 back-to-work bonus.

A month after the governor announced the incentive, some businesses in WAVE Country are still struggling to hire staff.

Union 15 Pizza in south Louisville has job openings for servers, bartenders, and cooks, but Katie Jackson, the restaurant’s front of house and bar manager, told WAVE 3 News it’s been tough finding people willing to work.

“We get people that come in,” she said. “They want to work, and then they’re here for like two days. It’s just been a constant battle we’ve had.”

Following the governor’s back-to-work bonus announcement, Jackson said she did notice a slight influx in job applications, however, it didn’t last long. She said potential employees have scheduled interviews and not shown up, or they quit after a couple shifts.

“As far as staffing it makes it hard, because our sales are steadily increasing, and it’s not making things easier if you’ve got somebody here, you fully train them, and then they’re gone. It’s one step forward, three steps back,” Jackson said.

Other restaurants like Brownie’s the Shed Bar and Grille in Hurstbourne told WAVE 3 News they have experienced the same thing, and larger companies, like Trilogy Health Services, have had trouble hiring staff, even after offering competitive raises and benefits.

“I could not fail to mention that some people are getting paid to stay home instead of working, which has been a wonderful help from the government when it was needed, but businesses are now ready to hire, so it would be great if the timing between the stimulus and businesses ready to hire again was a little more synchronized so we wouldn’t be suffering so much competing with the help of the taxpayers,” Priscila Mattingly, Trilogy Health Services’ chief human resources and inclusion officer said.

Beshear told WAVE 3 News he believes the back-to-work bonus has been effective. Around 7,000 people have stopped receiving pandemic unemployment benefits since the incentive was announced, according to Beshear.

“That’s what the impetus was,” Beshear said, referring to getting people off pandemic-related benefits. “There are lots of reasons we have challenges in our workforce. We’re recovering so quickly. It’s something I would pray for and if we can beat the pandemic, which we’re going to, we can address this challenge.”

The governor added more Baby Boomers are also retiring; the generation accounts for a significant part of the workforce.

The additional unemployment benefits and pandemic benefits will run out Sept. 6. Beshear said he has no plans to extend them if the federal government offers.

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