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Local businesses forced to close on certain days as labor shortage worsens

A business in downtown Springfield
A business in downtown Springfield
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This Labor Day, businesses across the nation continue to report a shortage of workers available to hire, and it’s having a noticeable impact in Springfield.

From food service to transportation, businesses across the capital city say the labor shortage has only gotten worse, with some having to close on certain days because of little to no staff.

What's causing the unprecedented shortage of labor? Most local businesses we spoke with on Monday, Sept. 6, guessed that it's because of the federal extension of unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic

According to a monetary policy report from the U.S. Federal Reserve in July, it might not be so simple. The report claims that other likely factors fueling the shortage is a nationwide surge in retirements, increased caregiving (childcare) responsibilities during the pandemic, and individuals' fear of contracting COVID-19.

Some national studies have shown that in the 26 states that chose not to keep expanded unemployment benefits this summer, the labor shortage did not decrease.

Illinois participated in the federal expansion of benefits, which expired Monday, Sept. 6.

At Hunan Restaurant in Springfield, manager Ni Wong says she was forced to close for one night last month due to low staff.

"Service, cooking, cashiers, every position is hard to hire," Wong said.

And it's not just at Hunan. Mel-o-Cream Donuts closed their North Grand Avenue location for a day in August because of low staffing. Tasty Cafe in Sherman even announced a temporary closure on Facebook until they can find more employees.

"You just feel like your hands are tied because you need your workers to provide service,” Lincoln Yellow Cab Manager Mike Antonacci said.

Lincoln Yellow Cab currently has two available drivers for a total of 14 cars. Antonacci says he’d like to raise wages at his business to incentivize more drivers to apply, but his business is in a unique position. Taxi rates are set by the City of Springfield, meaning Antonacci can’t raise salaries without an approved rate hike from the city, though he has requested one.

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"Hopefully they understand, the customers,” Antonacci said. “You just feel bad for them. We're here, we just don't have the manpower."

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