Expanded unemployment benefits end, local restaurant hoping workers will apply

MEDFORD, Ore. — Expanded pandemic unemployment benefits ended over the weekend.

That has some businesses hopeful that more people will enter the job market and help struggling businesses.

“I’ve seen this place shut down, re-open, shutdown again, re-open – I’m just like, great,” said server Adriana Bracamontes.

She’s been serving at El Paraiso in downtown Medford for a little over a year.

Her industry has been difficult. “We are short-staffed. We are hiring. I haven’t seen a hiring sign until just recently, we were usually over-staffed and now we’re understaffed, so it’s just crazy.”

Bracamontes says there are currently around 15 employees at the restaurant, forcing staff to fill multiple roles and take on additional hours.

She hopes that will change as expanded unemployment benefits end.

“[Potential hires] they’ve been calling asking ‘Oh, are you hiring?’ I’m like, we’ve been hiring, I’ll take a resume, we definitely need the help,” she said.

Medford-based State Regional Economist, Guy Tauer, says unemployment benefits increased drastically during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“[There were] 80,000 people most recently that were receiving one or more of those programs in Oregon, so that represents out of the labor force 2.1 million [people] — a little more than 3.5% of the civilian labor force,” said Tauer.

Tauer shared Jackson County’s unemployment benefits data with us.

Prior to the pandemic, in July of 2019, $3.2 million dollars went out to people.

In June 2020, in the height of the pandemic, it increased to $46 million dollars.

This July, $21.7 million dollars went out.

“The loss of that income for those folks will impact spending and other things like that. On the other side, we have seen a little uptick in people looking for work and accessing our services and stuff like that,” said Tauer.

Bracamontes hopes to see it. “It’s better for customer service, not everybody is running around. It just creates a better environment for everybody.”

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NBC5 News reporter Mariah Mills is a Medford native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor's Degree in journalism. She also minored in sociology. In school, she covered Oregon athletics for the student-run television station, Duck TV. When she's not reporting, she’s reading, hiking and rooting for her favorite teams, the Seattle Seahawks and the Oregon Ducks.
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