LITTLE ROCK (KATV) — Arkansas businesses are working with limited staff while some people remain at home collecting more money through state and federal unemployment benefits.
“With a limited staff, we’re only open five days a week,” said Rob Byford, owner of the Library Kitchen and Lounge downtown Little Rock.
Byford has managed to retain 10 of 25 employees during phase one of reopening the Arkansas economy.
More than 35 million Americans initially filed for unemployment assistance after COVID-19 led to a nationwide shutdown of businesses.
“If I don’t have staff to operate then our business doesn’t work,” Byford said.
Before the pandemic struck the Natural State, UA Little Rock economist Michael Pakko says the average weekly wage was $750.
Regular unemployment benefits through the state generate around $300. Tag on another $600 through the Federal Cares Act and the total is $900 per week.
“Arkansas is one of five states where the maximum benefits exceeds 130 percent,” Pakko said.
Employers and employees are now faced with a puzzling situation. In order to qualify for loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, businesses must retain 75 percent of payroll.
The federally-subsidized $600 stipend expires at the end of July while regular unemployment benefits through state programs typically run out after 26 weeks.
“There are these trade offs that employers and employees need to consider as to how to stay open or how to keep paying employees and how to move this out so everyone gets through this,” Pakko said.
As for Byford, he’s looking forward to filling vacant positions and serve the guests with food, drink and live entertainment.
“We did everything we could to get them to come back to work and explaining to them that I’m going to pay you to stay at home too. I’m just not going to give you as much money as you’re going to get on unemployment. However you’ll have a job and a good job,” Byford said.
Arkansas’ April unemployment rate jumped to 10.2%, according to the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services. The jobless rate remains less the national rate of 14.7 percent.
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