AUSTIN (KXAN) – More than 50,000 people are still unemployed in the Austin subway, according to Workforce Solutions Capital Area, an organization dedicated to connecting job seekers with employment.

And starting Saturday, weekly federal unemployment benefits of $ 300 will end in Texas. Faced with a staff shortage and strong demand for busy revelers, some restaurant and bar owners are hoping the change will lead to more people applying for jobs.

Recent data from the Austin Chamber of Commerce shows that 97% of the jobs lost during the pandemic have been recovered. However, for the hospitality industry, only 74% was recovered.

The Texas Restaurant Association said many of those people, in desperation, chose completely different careers after the industry was forced to shut down in 2020 due to ongoing security measures. Other workers in the industry told KXAN that they are always concerned about returning to work, where your duty is to interact closely with hundreds of people on a daily basis.

However, the clear message that many workers in the service sector wanted to get across is that their absence should not be interpreted as laziness or complacency in collecting unemployment benefits.

Kelsey Erickson Streufert, vice president of government relations and advocacy for the Texas Restaurant Association, said the impact of the industry shutdown last March was still being felt. Workers, restaurateurs, suppliers and the community at large are still suffering. However, she said the road to recovery will depend on collaboration.

“It will take time to rebuild our squad and find the place we want to be,” said Erickson Streufert. “It’s a fight, it’s a process, but I’d much rather be here than where we were 12 months ago.”

She said it’s up to the industry to make changes that excite their staff and help them see their job opportunity as a career, not a job.

TRA has also reached an agreement with the Texas Workforce Commission that for a limited time, food handler licenses and alcohol certification fees will be waived for any returning hospitality worker.

As for the guests, we ask them to thank the companies that are still struggling to get back on their feet. This is something that many have said they are ready to do.

“They have to reassign staff and retrain. What they really need to do is relearn something that took years to perfect, ”said Galen Farris, a Las Vegas resident visiting Austin. “We’re just happy to find them. “

The Texas Restaurant Association reports that about 10,000 businesses have closed permanently due to the pandemic. In the greater Austin area, that’s about 1,500 restaurants.

Contact KXAN education reporter Alex Caprariello by email at [email protected] or by phone at 512-703-5365, or find him at Twitter and Facebook.

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