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With Federal Unemployment Benefits Expired, Restaurant Industry Ready To Roll Out Welcome Mat To Job Seekers

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Unemployment benefits for millions of Americans ended on Monday.

The $300 federal supplement expired. For many who can't find work, it's a big blow.

But as CBS2's Nick Caloway reported, it could be good news for many small businesses experiencing a staffing shortage.

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Recent college graduate Georgia Fewell is new to the restaurant industry, with just two months on the job.

"Well, I think after the pandemic we were all feeling pretty lonely. And one of the things I wanted to get back involved in was the people," Fewell said.

That interest in people serves her well, as a server at Harvest Kitchen on the Upper West Side.

"It's difficult. It's hard work. But you meet a lot of incredible people," Fewell said.

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Restaurants like Harvest Kitchen could use more employees like her.

A lot more, actually.

"Now it's horrifyingly bad," Harvest Kitchen owner Jeremy Wladis said. "We can't find management. We can't find waiters, bus boys, bartenders."

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Wladis said he's hoping more applications start to come in now that unemployment benefits have expired.

But it's not just the benefits causing this crisis.

At The Hudson in Inwood, managers say they're having a hard time finding applicants who are vaccinated, a requirement now in New York City. The staffing shortage means The Hudson will now close on Mondays and Tuesdays.

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Restaurants in the suburbs are struggling to hire, too. In Ridgewood, New Jersey, signs in store fronts reflect a dire lack of workers.

Tashi Smith, regional training manager for Bareburger New Jersey, said many experienced former restaurant employees are not coming back.

"You know, our career servers, bartenders, are no longer looking to be in this industry because what has happened with the pandemic," Smith said.

Many restaurant managers and owners Caloway has been talking to say to make up for that lack of a veteran workforce, they're hiring younger employees with less experience.

So they ask that customers be patient.

CBS2's Nick Caloway contributed to this report.

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