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Colorado Springs businesses struggle to find workers willing to let go of unemployment benefits

server red gravy

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) — Though many businesses are legally allowed to reopen after COVID-19 shutdowns, some report it’s now hard to find workers willing to give up unemployment payments.

The owner of Red Gravy in Colorado Springs tells KRDO that two former employees declined to come back to work at the restaurant, citing unemployment pay as the reason.

People receiving Federal Pandemic Unemployment Claims get an extra $600 in benefits each week on top of normal unemployment benefits. For some people, it’s more than they would make working.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment tells KRDO that if a worker is offered their job back and they refuse, in most cases their unemployment benefits will stop. Employers are also encouraged to report job refusals to the department.

Chandler Crawford negotiated a full-time job at Red Gravy with owner Eric Brenner before her unemployment benefits expired after being laid off from a previous job.

"I was kind of looking forward to getting back to a full-time job," she said.

Full-time work isn't too common in the restaurant industry, but Brenner is getting accustomed to people asking for more money.

"Everyone was pretty honest about the fact that they're making more on unemployment," Brenner said. "To be honest, in our industry it's hard to get a day off. It's challenged us to think about how much we're paying people."

A spokesperson for the Department of Labor and Employment told KRDO if workers are audited, they may even have to pay back money made through unemployment after refusing work.

"Refusing to go back to work because you don't make as much money as you do on unemployment is not a valid reason to refuse work," Cher Haavind, the department's spokesperson, said.

The CDLE has been in contact with Brenner about a former employee who refused work.

"So far I've had one that's going into moderation. I don't know what's happening there, but I'm guessing the department is contesting payments to the employee after a certain point," Brenner said.

The additional $600 in weekly federal unemployment benefits from the CARES Act is set to end July 31.

Colorado Springs / News / Video

Lauren Barnas



  1. Here’s an idea businesses might have to make it worth their while to work. I know they hate that I hear it but that means they have to raise wages. Why would anyone take a cut in pay to go do work. Not like this town is inexpensive anymore.

    1. How much more are you willing to pay for a meal after they raise wages? if the job is not worth the pay demanded why should business raise pay? It drives prices up. $8.00 for a McDonalds meal? Just pay those geniuses $15 an hour?
      Standard Commie 101.

      1. It wont matter how much I am willing to pay; If there is no one willing to serve me. The market will decide the wage. Capitalism 102.

      2. The prices of things dont necessarily have to go up. The profits just dont need to be in the millions and billions while their workers cant afford to save anything. I worked for a company where just our branch profited 9 million in one year, the most that branch has ever made and all the workers got was a thank you. Spread the wealth people will be willing to work harder.

    2. Economics 101, raise wages, raises product prices.
      I’ll go get a burger from a chain restaurant if they want to gouge prices at a small mom and pop joint. This action then kills small businesses. This is why Walmart, McDonald’s even Subway is so prevalent.

  2. There needs to be a site that employers can go to and report they offered so and so a job and they refused. Then the freeloader would loose the extra benifit.

    1. The only reason that they are making more on unemployment is the TEMPORARY increase in payments due to being registering for Federal Pandemic Unemployment Claims. That $600 will not continue; it’s not a permanent benefit.

    2. The original intent was to compensate people for time they couldn’t work properly prior to being laid off. Many people had been working much shorter hours, because of lack of customers. But the additional amount was not related to actual wages, so it ended up being excessive for many workers, and that’s what caused the problem. I doubt there are many people here who would not do the same thing if put into that same position.

  3. Does it occur to anyone here that people don’t feel safe going back to work? Why risk your health or the health of your at-risk loved ones if you have any other option? Should at-risk people have another option? Should people who live with at-risk people have another option?

    Just because a job is potentially available does not mean it is safe to be out there, particularly if you are at risk. What is a life worth?

    This is very a one-sided perspective on this issue, certainly suggesting the worst side of people. Quite disappointing.

    1. Both sides are correct here. Some refuse because they currently make more on unemployment and some because of health concerns. There is a third reason. Business owners get got loans due to the virus that have benefits in debt reduction or forgiveness built in if they bring back workers by a certain date. That date is fast approaching and if they don’t rehire workers they are on the hook for the full loan amount.

  4. It’s good that the workers are staying away as long as they can. The GOP is trying to make it so workers can’t sue employers if they get COVID. This would protect employers who aren’t doing much to protect their workers.

    By the way, the GOP, also, wants to stop customers from being able to sue businesses. It may be a good idea to avoid going to these businesses if they aren’t made to follow certain procedures to protect customers.

    1. The US national debt increased by $3Trillion in the past two months (now at $26Trillion) due to coronavirus stimulus bills, including these payments. How do YOU propose we address that debt?

      1. What does that have to do with protecting employers from being sued if they don’t do things properly? That’s a typical GOP attitude of protecting the wealthy and screwing the workers.

    2. This is all Obama’s fault you know. The DNC imported this disease to kill off Americans.
      Yup and Biden thinks(that’s funny) he can finish the job.

      1. You’ve been listening to the Trump propaganda machine again. Time to broaden your horizons and hear the truth for a change.

  5. Please don’t feed the bears. They will become dependent on your handouts and lose the desire to forage for food on their own.

  6. Stastically insignificant. Things in this country are bigger than the Red Gravy’s inability to fix wage prices in Colorado Springs. The Red Gravy just has to deal with it or shut down. Who has heard of the Red Gravy anyway?

  7. The scamdemic is working as planned for the democrats. The more people dependent on welfare, the more votes they will get.

    1. The countries in rest of the world are destroying their economies, locking down and killing off their citizens to help the Democrats create as you call it a scamdemic. Here’s your sign!

    2. You’ve also been spending too much time listening to the Trump propaganda machine. That’s presumably why you’re only about as smart as Trump…

  8. Frankly, I realize that unemployment has a limited period of time after which you are cut off whether you’ve been looking for another job or not so eventually, they’ll all fall off the dole.

  9. When you feed the bears, they no longer want to forage for themselves. Government handouts should not be competitive with earned wages. Don’t we require residents to have bear proof trash cans on the westside, so bears don’t make a mess, be destructive, or become aggressive?

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