Businesses react to worker shortage in Mississippi

Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 5:01 PM CDT
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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - As capacity limits increase following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, people are ready to get back to normal. Managers cannot say the same for their employees.

Tim Moore, with Neshoba’s Community Development Partnership, says a lot of Philadelphia’s retail businesses are having trouble keeping employees with unemployment benefits, tax refunds and stimulus checks distributed.

“A lot of people now have unexpected money that they weren’t budgeting,” Moore said. “They do not really see the need to work. That is where a lot of our businesses are having problems with not having enough cooks in the kitchen. Not having enough waiters and waitresses. Just not having enough employees in general.”

Economic Development Director, Craig Hitt in Kemper County can relate.

Hitt says businesses have had to adjust their operating hours, causing working employees to fill-in overtime to meet production sales.

“Many of our employers here in the county and most of them I would say are frustrated and are struggling to have the manpower that they need to have or would like to have the manpower they had before the pandemic started,” Hitt said.

Hotels are also impacted. After having to lay off employees during the pandemic, most are having a hard time bringing people back in.

“Even right now, we’re still really shorthanded.” Toya Dockery with LaLa Enterprises said, “We are trying to fill in the gap with the employees that we do have that have been loyal employees from day one. They are still here working trying to make sure everything stays afloat.”

Operations Manager for Chili’s in Meridian, Ricky Perry believes he may have a solution. Perry started a $400 sign-on bonus for new hires, a $400 incentive bonus for current employees to refer a worker and an appreciation bonus of $500 for employees.

“We’ve always done a refer bonus. We went from $175 to $275 to our bonus being at $400 now. We recently started doing the $400 sign-on bonuses to increase traffic as well to see if we can get some good applicants,” Perry said. “I must say, since we have started it, I’ve put it across my social media and encouraged all managers and staff members to put it on their social media. We have had an influx in applicants apply.”

With Governor Tate Reeves opting out of additional federal unemployment benefits starting June 12th, developers stand firm behind him.

Representative Jackie Walorski of Indiana introduced a bill to congress to help unemployed Americans with a $1,200 back-to-work bonus, only if they start by the end of July.

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