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C.O. businesses face hiring challenges as they ramp up for COVID-19 summer

(Update: Adding video, comments from restaurant owners)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- As some businesses reopen in Central Oregon, they are ramping up efforts to hire more staff to recover from the financial losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But even with the high rate of unemployment, some businesses in Central Oregon say it has been difficult hiring people. 

Rick Trammel with Aqua Clear Spa Service spoke with NewsChannel 21 on Thursday about his difficulty hiring new employees.

He said he has put out hiring ads for more than a month and has not heard from any interested applicants.

Trammel said his business currently has six full-time employees and he wants to hire two more. He recently hired two temporary workers.

Trammel said he is frustrated people without work are waiting on unemployment benefits, instead of applying for jobs that are available.

Meanwhile, Miyagi Ramen in Bend has job fairs planned for Thursday and Friday.

George Morris, the co-owner and executive chef, said he appreciates the support they have received from the community when they were doing take-out orders only.

Morris also owns Bos Taurus, a steakhouse in Bend. He said between the two restaurants, he is looking to fill 10 positions, which include line cooks, prep cooks and a sous chef.

"A huge motivating factor for the ownership team was knowing good things will come and this will calm down," Morris said. "We knew we wanted to bring our employees back to work."

He said employees in both restaurants were unfortunately laid off due to the shutdown.

"A lot of our staff was from different places other than Bend, so when the pandemic happened, a lot of them went back home," Morris said. "I think that's a big gap of what we're trying to replace."

Morris said they announced they were hiring the day they were approved for reopening in Phase 1 of Gov. Kate Brown's plan.

He said they have received less applications than they anticipated, but he is not surprised.

“A lot of people are getting unemployment right now and feel safe staying home and collecting those checks," Morris said. "Then, there are people like myself that don’t want to stay at home and want to get back to work.”

Morris said he is confident business will get back to normal eventually, with the support of their staff and community.

However, he said business comes second to making sure his employees and customers are safe.

"I would like a busy summer, but I would like a safe busy summer, so if that means we get a little less business than last summer, it is what it is," Morris said.

Bend / Business / Central Oregon / Coronavirus / Top Stories
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Rhea Panela

Rhea Panela is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Rhea here.



  1. What a news story, or should I say paragraph? The reason employees can’t be found is the fact that they are making too much money off the government to make it worth taking a job…

    1. Maybe we should talk about people being able to make a livable wage in these industries? Perhaps promote a universal-style healthcare system so employers can afford to pay employees their deserved amount? If people can make more on unemployment, it isn’t the unemployment that’s the problem.

        1. Well those who migrated here and are buying overvalued homes should have no problem? Funny how those with money get super cheap here in Central Oregon

            1. Right. So let’s figure it out.
              Say a waitress sells $500 in a 6 hour shift. That’s $83.33/hour
              Let’s say she makes $2/hr +tips. The restaurant is making $81.33/hour net.
              If she had two 4-tops, that’s 8 people, so $10.17 per person.
              Now let’s say she makes $8/hour +tips. Restaurant is making $75.33/hour net.
              If she had two 4-tops, that’s 8 people to make up the $6 raise, so each person pays an extra .75, for $10.92 per person.
              So, with a $6 per hour raise for our waitress, I don’t think you’ll have to pay $10 for your beer, unless it was already $9.25

      1. You are dense. How much is paid from unemployment is based how much you were making. So even if they paid more, the unemployment would end up paying more. (Although the time frame unemployment uses for making the determination for how much you get is based on how much you were making like 9 months prior.).

        Max you can get Oregon is $648 a week which is about $16 an hour. So every business would need to pay more than $16 an hour to surpass the max unemployment and would need to pay more than $30 an hour during June and July because of the extra $600 per week that is paid because of the stimulus.

        You want every business to pay more than $16 an hour? Then watch prices go up. Also, that would eventually lead to an increase in the max unemployment benefit… So then you are back to square one.

        1. I wouldn’t expect you to actually research any facts to back up your claims, but here’s a recent study that shows how an increase in minimum wage does not increase the pass-through effect:

          Combined with a universal healthcare system, employers may actually save money, and employees will be able to afford to work and use less government assistance like SNAP, welfare benefits, etc.

        2. More information is needed in your response. Unemployment is only valid for 26 weeks, these wages last for the year. Unemployment is based on what you earned in the last 4 quarters worked.

        3. Jxblasr – Before the media over hype of this virus, what you said was more or less correct. However as part of the chinese virus stimulus package it changed

          The plan will give you an EXTRA $600 a week ON TOP of whatever you get through your state’s current unemployment insurance package. It will cover you for an extra 13 weeks.

          So not only are they getting more money, they get it longer. So in many cases they are getting more money being out of work then if they were to work. So why go back to work when you can get more sitting on your butt. So now business’s are trying to reopen but people will not come back to work. Just a example of how liberal policy’s screw stuff up.

        4. You quite obviously do not have all the facts. You need to take your numbers (will not dispute or confirm them) and add 600.00 per week from the COVID relief bill – the first one.

      2. If you are speaking of minimum wage as a livable wage I can tell you that minimum wage was never meant to be a livable wage. Minimum wage was meant to be a starting point for teens in high school and a flat minimum that an employer could pay an employee. The Oregon minimum wage is well above the Federal minimum wage. Federal minimum wage being $7.25 Hr. So in sense your point becomes MUTE. The Minimum wage may vary in Oregon but the average minimum wage in Oregon is $11.25 Hr. $4.00 more than that of the federal level. So again, your point is MUTE. Which again make Relevance Irrelevant.

        1. When capitalism makes companies prioritize profit over the domestic workforce, companies that can will look to other, lower cost alternatives (read: outsourcing). This leaves the domestic workforce with little in the way of livable wage jobs. Therefore, the idea that minimum wage is meant for teens to get started in the workforce is done and gone.

          1. So, you are suggesting that companies paying wages, who have invested who knows how much of their own or borrowed money to create the job for the privilege of paying wages – should not be making a profit???? No wonder your comments are so far out there…..

      1. You can’t really say 50k per year because the stimulus to unemployment ends in July and you can only collect unemployment for 39 weeks (26 weeks normal + 13 additional from cares act). So the maximum amount of money you could possibly collect from unemployment is about $35,400. Then nothing. But yes… It will be a problem for businesses until end of July.

        1. I would think a permanent job that you wouldn’t mind sticking with, that paid halfway decent even if it’s well below $30, that has vacation and/or paid sick time and/or medical, in a job market that has 1 in 4 workers laid off, would be hard to pass up. But if the pay sucks, or there’s not time off or medical, or the job isn’t right, then it would be much harder to jump on that ‘opportunity’.

  2. If you can’t find employees you pay below the market value for the particular position. Offer more money and quality people will line up to get the job.

      1. I have never collected unemployment in my entire life so I have no idea how it works. 4k sounds excessive for staying home to me, but again, I have no idea how it is calculated. I assume it is adjusted to the pay rate of the time they got laid off.

  3. Every business owner wanting to hire people. Call the employees you had to lay off and everyone that won’t come back, turn them in to the employment division and try to get the gravy train cut off. Vacation at tax payers expense is over. Time to get on with your life and be successful.

    1. I agree with you 100% Mr. T!!! We are short staffed where I work because employees are choosing to not answer the phone when they are called about coming back to work. They are the same employees who begged to be laid off so they could collect unemployment. I didn’t like coming to work when I could get an extra $600 per week on my unemployment. I could have made a thousand dollars per week on unemployment with the money the government kicked in. That is double what I make by going to work but I did the right thing and went to work. The workers who are milking the unemployment system and making us all work harder by not coming back to work will get a very cold shoulder from me if they finally decide to come back to work. Their unemployment should definitely be cut off if they are offered a job and chose not to accept it at a very minimum. I say charge them with fraud and make them pay back every dime if they play that game but that is just me.

  4. They should take the job now. When unemployment runs out in July, or employers turn them in for refusing work, they will be scrambling to find work. It’s better to work while you are appreciated, then lucky to have a job. People now days are like water, they travel the easiest path. Don’t get stuck in a puddle that will dry up one day.

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