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COMMENTARY: Better to be on unemployment than to have a job

Congress has increased unemployment benefits during the coronavirus crisis as part of the $2.2 billion stimulus package. Has anybody looked at the real impact of this?

I am a member of a timeshare board that manages our resort. We have about 130 timeshare units and about 80 full- and part-time employees. Because we collect the maintenance fees for the current year by February, we have the funds available to keep all our employees on the payroll, even though we are closed to our owners and guests.

We do not have any work for most of our employees to do.

Under most circumstances, we would be considered a small business employment hero for keeping our employees on the payroll. Thanks to the new unemployment bailout fiasco, however, we would be hurting most of our employees by doing so.

The minimum wage in our area is $12 per hour, a fair rate for many of our employees. That would be what more than half of the employees would continue to get from us during this mandatory shutdown. In the state where we are located, the unemployment benefit would be about $300 per week for our employees. But the federal government is going to add $600 per week to unemployment checks. That means each of our employees would earn about $22.50 per hour.

So if we keep them on the payroll, they earn $12 per hour, and if we lay them off, they earn $22.50 per hour with no taxes owed. What would you do for your employees?

The other question: How do we get them back when we need them?

Obviously, we will eventually reopen and allow our owners and guests to come back to the resort. We would not need all the employees to come back to work at the same time, so some would be asked to come back at $12 per hour and others would continue with their unemployment at $22.50 per hour. How do you choose which ones to bring back?

Several senators recognized this issue as a problem. But typically for our government, nobody found a way to solve this matter before they approved the stimulus bill.

This is the real world for many small businesses that can afford only minimum wage for certain employees in order to earn a profit to stay in business. No business owner can afford to keep low-wage employees on the payroll while those same employees can earn $22.50 per hour in unemployment benefits.

This bailout will have a significant impact on our small businesses — and even on our large Las Vegas casinos where many employees earn less than $22.50 per hour. Our country’s economic and employee problems are just beginning.

Jim Beckham Jr. writes from Henderson.

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