Maryland Restaurant Owner Can't Get Employees to Return Because They Make More in Unemployment

A Maryland restaurant owner said Tuesday that she can't get employees to return to work because they make more in unemployment benefits than in working for her business.

Melony Wagner, who owns Charles Village Pub & Patio in Towson, said her employees would prefer to continue collecting unemployment than come to work as they make more money staying home, according to a report by FOX 5 News.

"They don't want to [come back to work] and I don't really want a restaurant full of unhappy employees," Wagner told the tv station.

"They don't want to because it is less money. I am not even angry or upset with them. I understand. Why would you want to come back and actually work and make half as much money or two-thirds as much money – and you are working – as you can get to stay home," Wagner said. The restaurant is currently open for carry-out orders and has hired high school students to make deliveries.

The increase in unemployment totals is a key provision in the CARES Act, a coronavirus relief bill implemented to help struggling Americans in the midst of the pandemic that led businesses across the country to close.

Under the CARES Act, Americans who lost their jobs due to the pandemic and claim unemployment benefits can receive an additional $600 per week on top of what they already get from their state. The federal unemployment aid went into effect April 22 and will continue until July 31.

A Congressional Research Service report on state unemployment insurance released late last year indicated that most states provide unemployment payments to residents for up to 26 weeks. According to the report, 1.6 million unemployed people received an average of $364 a week in August 2019. Still, the maximum payout to residents fluctuates wildly from state to state.

For instance, in Massachusetts, a person could receive $1,192 per week if they claim the maximum amount of dependents on their unemployment insurance, while in Mississippi the most a person can claim – even with the maximum amount of dependents – is $235 per week.

Maryland residents can claim a maximum of $430 a week for six months. With the additional $600, those individuals could see $1030 per week in claims until the end of July.

"It's a very difficult position to be put in right now, honestly. Although I know everybody loves the extra $600 a week, it's really had the opposite effect of what I think they were hoping it was going to have," Wagner said.

Democrats drafted a new relief package that would see the $600 unemployment benefits extend through the end of the year, and for some people until March 2021. Republican Senator Rob Portman from Ohio said a better plan would be to incentivize workers to return to work by providing a bonus in addition to their salaries instead of extending unemployment insurance.

"If you take $450, as an example, per week...that would mean that in every state for minimum wage workers it would be more advantageous go back to work than to stay on unemployment insurance...They're going to get their salary plus that [$450]," Portman said in an appearance on CNBC's Squawk Box Wednesday.

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OCEAN CITY, MD. - APRIL 27: A man walks along the empty boardwalk on April 27, 2020 in Ocean City, Maryland. The beach and boardwalk were closed after Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued a stay-at-home order and banned non-essential travel to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) Mark Wilson/Getty

Correction (05/15/20, 11:06 a.m.): The headline and second graf have been updated to reflect that the Charles Village Pub is not located in Baltimore. The restaurant is located in Towson, Maryland.

Correction (5/16/20, 8:50 a.m.): Updated to clarify the Towson restaurant's full name is Charles Village Pub & Patio, which is distinct to Charles Village Pub in Baltimore.

Maryland Restaurant Owner Can't Get Employees to Return Because They Make More in Unemployment | U.S.