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Available jobs remain unfilled as local business owners struggle to entice people to work

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) -- A Fort Wayne business owner says when Congress authorized pandemic stimulus payments and extra unemployment benefits to help people who lost jobs, it created a big problem for him and others.

"Last couple months it's been real difficult to find help," Tim Allen said.

Big Eyed Fish employs people at three locations plus a food truck, but owner Allen says he's struggling to fill open positions.

"In just a 10-block radius of here, I guarantee you there's 400 jobs available. So until the free money goes away, we're going to have this issue.," he said.

He says people are bringing in more income by collecting unemployment rather than working.

The owner of Big Eyed Fish says he's not alone in struggling to fill open positions.

"I'm out here busting my butt and working 60-70 hours a week, and the person that's sitting at home is making more or the same. So it's really tough to get them to come out to do it," Allen said.

He says that's prompted some restaurants to do carry-out only because they can't hire the help they need.

Allen says he's had to take a hard look at his business model to see how he can continue to operate because he doesn't have enough bodies to fill out shifts.

"I've talked about doing a kiosk as you come in. I don't want to do that. We want to be more personable with our people that come in, know their name, and get to know our customers. And so, yes, we've started to put into plan what we're going to do. I've talked about changing the hours, which I don't want to," he said.

Employees say they have to take on extra tasks when they don't have a full crew on the clock.

"We should be at full staff. And sometimes you get people who want to work and you get those people that don't want to work. But I would say come in, put an application in. We are a family, we love each other, so we work as a team," Kim Franks said.

Allen says not only can he not find people who want to work, when he does hire one, many times he ends up spending hours filling out paperwork so that the former employee can collect unemployment benefits.

He says they only took the job to qualify for aid.

"The ones that worked a day or two for me, and then I've got to sit down and fill all these forms out to send them in to explain why they only worked six hours. So I don't know what the deal is there, but that needs to be looked at again and redone, I would say," he said.

In the meantime, he says he pays his employees a good wage to continue to pick up the slack, but he's not sure how long he can keep that up.

Corinne Rose

Corinne Rose is a reporter for WPTA.

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