WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (KGO) -- For millions of Americans, this Labor Day marks the end of their unemployment checks, at least the $300 per week from the federal government. Here in the Bay Area, some employers are hoping the end of the benefit might spur more people to return to the workforce.
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They're pretty much everywhere you look, "help wanted" signs in the windows of Bay Area stores and restaurants.
Even with the re-opening, it's been especially difficult for small businesses to find and keep employees.
"People don't want to go back, no one wants to interact with people anymore," said Meghan Degoey, the manager of Five Little Monkeys Toy Store in Walnut Creek. "People are scared. It's a competitive hiring market I think for good candidates."
But now that the federal government's enhanced benefits are ending, that means more than eight million Americans will no longer receive weekly unemployment checks.
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"Right now, when the Congress passed that legislation, they put a time limit on it," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. "September 6th was the time line, and that's when the $300 ends and hopefully, as we think about what's happening, we don't need it consistently across the country because some states have very low unemployment rates."
One big challenge for business owners, while in many cases, the customers are back, the employees are not. The hope is that will change going forward.
"For sure, we're going to get more candidates because they don't have any choice," said Ben Ameur, owner of Brioche de Paris. "They have to work. So I think we're going to have more people to work with us, for sure."
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However, getting more people back to work is about more than money. Other barriers include concerns over the Delta variant and the scarcity of affordable child care.
So small business owners must be creative when competing for qualified workers.
"We try to be flexible with like students, with Moms, make sure we can be flexible as our perk," said Degoey. "Even if we can't pay them a ton more, or in some cases match what they get on unemployment."
The Biden Administration says individual states are free to use federal relief funds to extend unemployment checks, but so far, no state has taken that step.