SHOW LOW — Like the rest of the country, area businesses are giving everything they have to continue to serve their community with the same bare-bones staff they have had since last summer during the heat of the pandemic. The signs are everywhere: Help Wanted, Now Hiring. From construction companies to car repair shops and bakeries to gift shops, practically every business is short-staffed and serving short-tempered customers.

One local owner/manager, who didn’t want to be named, said, “I find my staff crying in the restroom all the time. Customers are being needlessly cruel to them and I’m worried they are going quit from the pressure. If I lose even one of them, I am out of business for good. I won’t be able to replace them.”

Summer has just started and the pressure isn’t going to lessen for weary managers. A White Mountain staple, Darbi’s Cafe in Pinetop, posted a statement that they had made a difficult decision to cease their dinner service on the weekends, due to lack of staff.

“With ample supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine on hand and millions of Arizonans vaccinated, people feel safer and are finally returning to life in Arizona as we knew and loved it before,” said Governor Ducey. “People are back in the office, restaurants are at full capacity and tourists are flocking to our state.”

And they are flocking to the White Mountains in droves. Show Low restauranteur, Gene Tague said, “This (employee crisis) has been brutal for us. We have the customers, but cannot find enough people to serve them.”

Tague posted a sign to guests requesting patience with the staff. He even splurged on a giant hiring banner to face White Mountain Road in hopes of attracting desperately need help.

Some businesses have begun to ad hiring bonuses to their advertisements, in hopes of enticing people and still cannot get enough qualified applicants to hire appropriately.

Speaking of bonuses, Gov. Doug Ducey and the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) announced one-time bonuses last week: $1,000 for part-time and $2,000 for full-time as a part of his “Back To Work” programs to mixed reviews. On Twitter, business leaders praised the plan while others panned it.

Arizona Small Business Association posted to Twitter, “We applaud the Governor’s plan to support Arizonans getting back to work, and fill the thousands of jobs available across the state. We know countless businesses across the state are ready to hire, and the Back to Work program will ensure Arizona’s continued economic recovery!”

While @andrebocc1 stated: “... I assume small business owners won’t be eligible for the $2,000 bonus, and those $300 a week were very helpful for said small businesses.”

Sarah@summerbreeze002 stated, “Someone should explain to you that making $2.13 an hour makes it hard to pay skyrocketing rent prices here…”

Affordable housing is another legitimate obstacle local employers face. As what is quickly becoming a vacationers paradise, some assert that investors are quickly snatching up housing to convert to short-term rentals. Employers are worried and insist this needs to be addressed by local authorities.

As a part of the governor’s “Back to Work” plan, Arizona will stop taking the federal government’s supplemental pandemic unemployment benefit effective Saturday, July 10, and will provide support for unemployed seeking to up-skill their careers through adult education and additional child care opportunities. Individuals must make $25 per hour or less at their new job and must begin working by Labor Day – Monday, Sept. 6. Qualifying individuals may accept a job with an employer immediately to qualify for either bonus.

Ducey stated, “Although more people are ready to work today in Arizona than before the pandemic, many businesses are struggling to fill vital positions. We cannot let unemployment benefits be a barrier to getting people back to work.”

Gov. Ducey’s announcement came after many employers reported staffing difficulties related to the federal government’s unemployment benefits, which they believe encouraged individuals to stay home instead of getting out and finding a job.

“In Arizona, we’re going to use federal money to encourage people to work … instead of paying people not to work,” Ducey said.

Local business owners are weary yet still hopeful that something will change for the better and quickly. If only visitors will adopt a spirit of understanding in the process.

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