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Owners Of 'Short-Staffed' Salem Businesses Complying With Vaccine Mandate Hope New $500 Incentive Attracts Workers

SALEM (CBS) -- Inside gifts shops, bakeries, and restaurants in Salem are employees are busy trying to keep up.

"We are looking for front-end help and back-end help," Holly Robinson of the Chocolate House said. "Anything. We are pretty short-staffed."

Business owners in Salem say the pandemic has made for some challenging working conditions and staffing shortages. Now the city is offering a $500 bonus to workers at Salem businesses complying with the vaccine mandate.  

Qualifying workers must have been on the payroll between Jan. 15, 2022 and Feb. 4, 2022. Whether they are existing employees or new hires, eligible workers must work at the business for at least six consecutive weeks.

"We are hoping this is a tool that helps our small businesses and also recognize the efforts of our frontline staff," Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll said.

Robinson says they applied for the Salem Employee Incentive Program. They recently had to briefly shut down because they didn't have enough employees.

"We are trying to do the best we can. We used to be open seven days a week, and now we are doing Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. So we've limited our hours," Robinson said.

Aris Tzaaris opened up The Red Line Café last year in the middle of the pandemic, and he's dealing with the same issue as Robinson.

"People don't want to come for work. It's crazy," he said.

Things are quiet in downtown Salem with not a lot of foot traffic. But in just a few months, the busy season will kick in. That means a lot of small businesses we will be looking to hire employees, which is why they hope the city incentive plan will work.

"We are looking for extra help," Tzaaris said.

The incentive only applies to businesses where vaccine and mask mandates are in place.

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