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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Businesses express concerns with finding workers as pandemic winds down

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As COVID-19 guidelines ease, Black-owned businesses and businesses with a majority Black staff are searching for more employees; however, many companies have struggled to find them. These companies attribute their worker shortage to various factors including unemployment wages, certification requirements and limited benefits for their workers. 

Congress passed a COVID-19 relief bill in January that added $300 to weekly unemployment benefits. With the intention of getting people to return to work, Gov. Eric Holcomb ended the extra relief money for unemployed Hoosiers on June 19. The state was ordered by the Court of Appeals of Indiana to continue paying federal unemployment benefits temporarily, challenging Gov. Holcomb’s decision. 

William Birdsong understands why these benefits are needed but believes people might be abusing these resources.

“There’s so many people who are taking advantage of unemployment benefits when they could be working,” he said.

Birdsong is the CEO and co-founder of DocuMentor — a company that provides software solutions for health care and social service agencies.

Historically, minority groups have the highest unemployment rates in the country, Black and Native Americans being at the top of the list. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 135,178 people were unemployed in Indiana and 46,407 people were unemployed in Indianapolis. 

While Birdsong’s company is adequately staffed, the companies he provides services for are not. Since these companies do not have enough people working, Birdsong has made many price negotiations for his software, leading his company to lose money in the process. 

“The essence of the problem is that it’s a low paying industry,” he said.

The pandemic has brought attention to the insufficient pay companies provide to their employees and many people are demanding better wages and better benefits from companies to be hired on. For Kalvin Jones, owner of Techucate and Code Black Indy, the pandemic has also highlighted the resources that he cannot provide to his employees. 

Jones said a lot more people are looking for positions that provide benefits such as health insurance, and because his companies are young — Code Black Indy began in 2018 and Techucate in 2021 — he does not have the resources to provide his employees with benefits. His goal is to offer suitable benefits for all employees in the future.

He needs people with the certifications and skills to teach others how to make and fix hardware. He’s struggling to find those educators.

“Sometimes we can find teachers, but they don’t have a technical background,” he said. “Sometimes we can find someone with a technical background but no teaching experience. You have the certification, but you really have to have the passion to teach.”

Jerald Cosey, operational leadership development director at American Senior Communities, did not notice a shortage of workers when he was executive director at one of the company’s nursing home eight months ago. However, some of the positions require certifications, which can limit potential hires. Certified nursing assistants (CNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs) require a certification or a license to be hired at any nursing facility.

“We have to be intentional about identification of talent, and we have to be intentional of development of talent,” he said.

Contact staff writer Abriana Herron at 317-924-5243. Follow her on Twitter and @Abri_onyai.

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