‘If the answer was fixing one issue, we would have already done it’: Businesses react to Court of Appeals decision

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INDIANAPOLIS — Despite a Tuesday court ruling outlining Governor Holcomb’s authority to cut off federal unemployment benefits; the state will still continue to dole out the $300 weekly payments in back pay to eligible Hoosiers. 

The payments must continue because the state has to give a 30-day notice to recipients before cutting them off. 

The 30 day notice itself extends beyond the previously scheduled September 6th end of federal pandemic-related unemployment programs. 

The process of getting to this point has taken months. In mid-May Governor Holcomb first decided to end these federal payments, joining several other states to do so. That act was challenged by a Marion County judge which effectively brought the weekly payments back in July. 

A different panel of judges overturned that decision on Tuesday, bringing an end to future payments, which they say, were always designed to be temporary and have hampered the workforce.

“If you’re being offered incentive to not join the workforce it’s understandable that people haven’t come back yet,” Proprietor of The District Tap Michael Cranfill said. “I always say, don’t hate the players, hate the game, and if the game is making your decision to stay home more profitable… why wouldn’t you?”

According to Governor Holcomb, there are at least 143,000 job openings currently available in Indiana, Cranfill says several of them are at his restaurant. 

“Basically, if you want to be a host or a hostess, if you wanna be a server, a bartender if you like to try yourself out in culinary skills and get back of the house… we’re hiring at all positions,” Cranfill said. “Servers and bartenders are making more money than they ever have before as business is coming back and thriving. No one has any complaints there.”

Indiana’s hospitality industry needs help. It needs employees ready to meet the demand of folks now eager to dine in.

“I can tell you this. Over the last several months, business has come back in a roaring way. There is a lot of pent-up demand, people are ready to come back out, have fun, relax. Dine out with their friends again,” Indiana Restaurant & Lodging Association President & CEO Patrick Tamm said. “Our labor issues are very complicated. There’s a myriad of issues we face, and this obviously was one of them. It’s not a silver bullet to give us a fix though.”

Tamm believes Tuesday’s ruling is a step in the right direction and it will help, he fears it may not be enough. 

“This does help… but it’s a little bit too late on that piece but our other issues just will not resolve on its own,” Tamm said. “If someone were to tell you that the hiring crisis faced by all industries would be solved by one culprit – they would be flat out lying. The recruitment challenges we’re all facing, it’s a complex puzzle made of a myriad piece – including stimulus supports, remote schooling, the need for caregivers to stay home, a reduced labor force and greater competition for talent, I could go on and on.”

For those who say the jobs available in the hospitality industry don’t pay enough or don’t come with the benefits they desire, it may be time to think again. 

“Right now, jobs are earning more than they ever have. I can tell you this, we’re paying several dollars more an hour, pretty much in every position,” Cranfill said. “If you want a job in the hospitality industry and you want to advance quickly in a career position… now is the time to do it.”

The $300 weekly payments had more than doubled Indiana’s average unemployment benefits, according to the state’s department of workforce development. 

Those are set to expire on Sept. 6th.

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