Employers offering great starting rates, bonuses to fill open jobs brought on by the pandemic

ATLANTA — About 100,000 Georgians say they need unemployment benefits right now, according to the Department of Labor.

You’d think businesses would be flooded with applicants, especially with the state reopening. But that’s not happening. So desperate companies are getting creative.

Channel 2 reporter Sophia Choi talked to business owners about hiring incentives they are using to lure workers back. Choi found a “hiring bonus” bonanza happening across the country and right here in metro Atlanta.

You’ve probably seen the “help wanted” and “now hiring” signs hanging in a lot of local businesses. They need help, right now, with the state reopening. And they’re willing to negotiate, offering more money and even better hours, to get you on the payroll.

Katie Glass works part time as a server at There Gastropub in Brookhaven. She purposely keeps her hours down to keep her unemployment benefits.

“I was definitely making more sitting at home. So, I’d rather just not risk it, and I just stay at home,” Glass told Sophia Choi.

Her boss, Bill Brown, says the stimulus money stymied motivation for many workers.

“Now, all of a sudden, you have front-of-the-house workers that were making five to six hundred a week. Now are making nine hundred a week for not working,” Brown said.

“I’ve even heard employers, you know, that pay really good pay, and good benefits. And I’m talking, you know, between $15 to $20 an hour, they’re telling me that even they are having issues, finding people to come in and work,” Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said.

But with the state reopening, businesses, especially restaurants, are desperate to hire.

“People are coming out and it’s getting busier and busier,” restaurateur Jenna Aronwitz said.

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It’s too much for the few, already overworked employees at restaurants like the Rock ‘N’ Taco in Roswell.

“If they’re working every shift, every day, they’re going to get burned out,” Rock ‘N’ Taco co-owner John Michael Burnetti said.

Karen Bremer with the Georgia Restaurant Association says eateries and pubs need about 100,000 more workers. So, to lure applicants, businesses are offering big-time incentives. Cold hard cash, in bonuses.

“Another is guaranteed schedules, you know, guaranteed hours, guaranteed days of the work,” Bremer said.

Choi found plenty of good offers online at sites like Indeed and Glass Door. One ad for a barista touts a $300 signing bonus.

Another offers $6,000 for a plumber. And even a $15,000 bonus is offered for a dentist in another ad.

Even Uber offers a $1,000 bonus for drivers.

Bremer says it’s a worker’s market and job seekers should take advantage.

“If you had a desire to work, a dream to work in a certain restaurant, now is the time to go apply for that dream job,” Bremer said.

The advice from the labor commissioner: don’t let the opportunity pass by.

“If history teaches us anything, go back to the recession, a lot of individuals who waited till after the 99-weeks of unemployment went out, start looking for a job. That actually ended up penalizing them, because a lot of employers looked at that, and said, you know, why didn’t you look before this,” Commissioner Butler said.

Katie Glass took that advice and changed her mind.

If that was set in stone, you’ll make at least this much this month, then definitely I’d be back,” Glass said.

Bill Brown told Choi after learning about the incentives he’s offering, Katie applied for a full-time position

“So it does work,” Choi asked Brown.

“It does work. It does work,” Brown said.

But other restaurateurs say even with bonuses, they can’t get enough people to apply and it’s becoming a crisis situation. Without more workers, they can’t provide services, and that means some may go out of business.