Wichita restaurants forced to get creative while dealing with fewer workers

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Some Kansas businesses are struggling to find workers. It is forcing some to alter hours or even close.

Some businesses have felt they have been competing with unemployment benefits for workers. Federal benefits expire next week.

The Wichita Workforce Alliance expects applicants to flow in, and there is no shortage of job openings.

Restaurants like Rene’s Mexican have been short on help.

“We are closed because there are no workers,” said Laurena Ortega.

Ortega says, with some staff on vacation, it left them no choice but to close their west location for a week.

“Because people do not want to work, because of all these benefits they are given, because of this, I can’t find employees. No one wants to work. They don’t need to. They are given money and receiving money,” said Ortega.

The Wichita Workforce Alliance is gearing up for a change.

“The federal employment programs that were added during the pandemic, all of those do exhaust this week. In past times, when we have seen unemployment programs exhaust, we do see a large number of people reenter the workforce and start looking for jobs,” said Amanda Duncan, Wichita Workforce Alliance.

For others, the shortage of workers comes unexpectedly.

“Contractor came in and got started on the project, but they’ve had some COVID-related staffing issues and have informed us that they’re going to pull off for about a week,” said Dan Squires, Derby assistant city manager for development.

Construction cones now line up a chunk of Rock Road in Derby, but no workers are expected to return until Sept. 9.

“We’re not expecting a lengthy delay, but you know, as we’ve learned with COVID, you know next week’s another week and who knows what the next turn of events might be, but the project can get done, and we’re fortunate on this project, that when they’re not working, it’s not impacting traffic.”

The Wichita Workforce Center will be hosting a virtual multi-employer job fair on Sept. 9 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. To register for the job fair, click here.

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