Business struggles to stay staffed: ‘I am losing employees to the state of Arizona because they are offering something that I cannot’

Business struggles to stay staffed due to jobless benefits

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -Even as Arizona fully reopens, some employers are having a hard time hiring.

The calls keep coming in at Avid Home Care near Prince Road and I-10. Seniors and those living with disabilities are seeking caregivers to help them stay in their homes, however, help is limited.

“We’ve continued to get more calls during the pandemic, we are protecting the most vulnerable population from this virus,” said owner Vanessa McCally. “I turned two people down today. I had to say no because I didn’t have enough people to help them.”

McCally opened Avid Home Care six years ago. The family-run business typically employs about 50 people, but now, they are down to 21 workers.

“It’s not a competition, I am losing employees to the state of Arizona because they are offering something that I cannot,” McCally said. “We were short on caregivers already, this was a blow we did not need.”

What McCally offers an entry-level position with flexible work hours. She pays a dollar over minimum wage; a recent increase to attract workers. She says the benefits are good and they’ve started offering bonuses.

“People having the option of staying home and just making a little less money, of course they are going to do it,” she said. “They would much rather work a little less, or not at all, and get the unemployment.”

Jobless Arizonans receive up to $240 a week. Those impacted by the pandemic receive an additional $300 a week from the federal government. The latest relief bill extended the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program through Sept. 6.

In her first five years of business, McCally says three people filed for unemployment, but none of them paid out. This past year, McCally says she has had 27 claims and all received unemployment benefits.

She says she can barely get new candidates in the door.

“I used to do orientations with 11 or 12 people and now it’s a struggle to get one,” said McCally. “I want the Department of Economic Security to follow their own rules. I want them to not give unemployment to people that quit.”

McCally says she has had conversations with Gov. Doug Ducey’s Office and state lawmakers.

KOLD News 13 also reached out to the Governor’s Office and received the following statement:

“The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits were set by Congress to deal with a once-in-a-lifetime event. These benefits are designed for those who have lost their jobs, not those who have quit. Governor Doug Ducey believes the best unemployment program is a job. Arizona’s current economic situation is a testament to Ducey’s success [bringing the state through this crisis].”

The Arizona Department of Economic Security did not respond to our request for comment.

McCally says she doesn’t know how much longer her business can hold on.

“I want everyone to have a job to go to when this stimulus is over,” she said. “Things are starting to open up, I just want the economy to improve. Things have changed and I would like the Department of Economic Security to catch up.”

Two bills working their way through the Arizona State Legislature would increase jobless benefits. SB1411, which passed the Senate, would increase the state’s weekly payments to $320 a week, but would cut eligibility from 26 weeks to 20 weeks. HB2508, which passed the House, would increase the weekly payments to $300.

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