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Local businesses struggle to remain fully staffed as unemployment benefits continue

Sunday, April 18, 2021

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, many businesses were forced to close and lay workers off. Some were able to stay afloat with a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan to keep staff on the payroll.

Throughout the pandemic, the federal government issued three stimulus checks to millions of Americans to help bring relief to pocketbooks. However, between the stimulus checks, along with federal tax refunds and increased unemployment benefits, local business owners are struggling to keep their businesses staffed.

Denny Wallace, part owner of both Sonic locations in Ruston, said the struggle began right around the time of the 2021 ice storm.

“It was a perfect storm,” Wallace said. “People got a stimulus check, a refund check and another stimulus check in a short amount of time. People started quitting, and no one wanted to put in an application because they didn’t need to.”

Wallace said that the staffing shortage is all over the area and that the Sonic location on California Avenue had to cut back and just do drive thru several times. He also said the month of March was “busier than we’ve ever been,” but no one was applying to work.

“I had like three people apply in two weeks,” Wallace said. “But I’m not the only one. This is happening all over the area, and it’s not just restaurants.”

Two other Rustonbased businesses did not return calls from the Leader.

Local business owner Keith Brasuell agreed that it was the perfect storm.

“It’s quite possible that the U.S. government, while meaning well, is doing more harm than good with some aspects of the new stimulus program,” Brasuell said. “Right now, anybody that is wanting to work or advance themselves in a career has a great opportunity.”

Wallace said anybody that would like to apply with his location should text APPLY2797 to 876642.