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Festival Cancellations, Attraction Shutdowns Mean Big Losses For Seasonal Jobs

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The city's Memorial Day Parade, Gospel Festival, and Blues Festival were all canceled Tuesday due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic – along with the jobs that come with them.

CBS 2's Tara Molina took a look Tuesday night at why seasonal workers are the new wave of employees impacted.

The Blues and Gospel festivals have been city favorites for well over 30 years, and their cancellation is an unbelievable reality. But the people who typically work them won't be the only ones affected.
The next casualty? Navy Pier.

The pier hosts millions of visitors every year. During the stay-at-home order, it's hosting zero.

And with so much uncertainty, moving forward, spokespeople said they have been forced to put seasonal hiring on pause.

They typically bring in hundreds, but say they won't know their staffing needs this year until there is a better idea of when they will open again, and then reassess how many people they need for the summer.

Navy Pier spokeswoman Payal Patel said:

"Navy Pier has adjusted its seasonal hiring plans as a result of the ongoing pandemic. We have been in regular contact with our seasonal employee base to gauge interest in working this summer once the Pier reopens. Once we have a better idea of our reopening date, we will circle back with those who have expressed interest in returning. At that point, we will also assess our full staffing needs and resume hiring accordingly. We won't know the full extent of our staffing needs until we get closer to the potential reopening date, which obviously depends on the state and city's recommendations and guidelines. Until then, seasonal hiring is on pause."

The same thing is happening in Gurnee, where a representative said Six Flags Great America has the largest seasonal staff in Illinois, but hasn't started summer hires yet. The park hires about 4,000 people every summer.

"A lot of those entertainment and hospitality jobs have really been the most hard hit," said job placement expert Andy Challenger of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Challenger said some seasonal jobs will shrink this spring and summer, while others won't exist.

"You're not going to see as many people scooping ice cream at Dairy Queen - jobs that go to teenagers. You're not going to see entertainment venues that need people going up and down the aisles selling hot dogs," he said.

His company, headquartered in Chicago, is seeing that already, with seasonal workers facing another possible challenge down the road.

"There may be higher skilled workers who have been furloughed who are going to come in and take those positions," Challenger said. "We really saw that during 2008 and 2009."

We reached out to the Chicago White Sox and the Cubs, which are both looking at a delayed start to the season, but unclear of how things will look this year moving forward. Both offered their seasonal and part-time workers $500 grants through team member funds.

Cubs spokesman Julian Green said in a statement:


"The Wrigley Field Team Member Fund will provide financial assistance to seasonal and part-time hourly associates and other designated employees of Cubs and Cubs partners who need emergency assistance as a result of designated disasters and other emergencies, including the delayed start of Major League Baseball's 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund is being managed by the Emergency Assistance Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization designed to help provide relief and make funds available to those in need. The application process is simple and requires basic information to verify employment. Once applications are received and processed, eligible associates will receive a one-time grant of $500 for immediate needs related to the health and well-being of their family."

The White Sox said a majority of their two-thousand game-day employees are employed by other companies, but they're still a part of that program.

Spokesman Scott Seifert said in a statement:

"The White Sox created an emergency relief fund of $1 million to help relieve any short-team economic stress ballpark employees may be feeling at this difficult time. Last week, all eligible employees are being told privately that they would be receiving a non-taxable grant of $500 to help their families cover basic living expenses until baseball returns. The approximately two thousand day-of-game employees eligible include people who work as ushers, ticket takers, vendors, concession staff, parking lot attendants, janitors, security and food service personnel, among others. The vast majority are employed by companies other than the White Sox, but they are included in this program. To best administer this program, the White Sox contracted with the Emergency Assistance Foundation a third-party agency with expertise in providing quick-reaction financial relief. To help those in need, in March the White Sox and Chicago Bulls also donated $200,000 to the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund for distribution in our local community."


We're still gathering information on seasonal work and companies that do plan on hiring moving forward.

CBS 2 is committing to Working For Chicago, connecting you every day with the information you or a loved one might need about the jobs market, and helping you remove roadblocks to getting back to work.

We'll keep uncovering information every day to help this community get back to work, until the job crisis passes. CBS 2 has several helpful items right here on our website, including a look at specific companies that are hiring, and information from the state about the best way to get through to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.

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