Joe Biden has told business owners struggling to hire staff that they need to pay better wages, as he seemed to concede that the pandemic increase in unemployment benefits was making it harder to find workers.
The president was asked by an Ohio restaurant owner on Wednesday night, at a CNN town hall, how he planned to resolve the staffing crisis in his industry, and others.
Biden said that the restaurant industry was ‘really going to be in a bind for a little while’ because salaries were too low to entice people back to work.
He added: ‘We’re ending all of those things keeping people from going back to work, et cetera.’
John Lanni, co-founder of Cincinnati-based Thunderdome Restaurant Group, which has 39 restaurants nationwide, said they were struggling to find workers.
‘I think it really is a matter of people deciding now that they have opportunities to do other things and there’s a shortage of employees; people are looking to make more money and to bargain,’ said Biden.
‘So I think your business and the tourist business is really going to be in a bind for a little while.’
John Lanni, the co-owner of a restaurant group that has 39 venues across the country, on Wednesday night asked Joe Biden what the president could do to try and help him find more staff for his restaurants. Biden replied that wages needed to go up
Biden addressed multiple topics at the Ohio town hall, hosted by CNN anchor Don Lemon
He added: ‘John, my guess is that people being paid seven, $8 an hour plus tips, that’s – I think, John, you’re going to be finding 15 bucks an hour or more now. But you may pay that already. You may pay that already.’
The president spoke to a surprisingly empty auditorium at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati.
Flattering camera angles hid the small crowd from viewers at home, but reporters traveling with Biden tweeted pictures of the empty seats.
Donald Trump, who held large rallies through much of the pandemic, frequently taunted Biden for small crowds, which Biden on the campaign trail made a deliberate policy to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
It is unclear if the room was half-full due to concerns about the virus or due to a lack of public interest. A White House official referred an inquiry to CNN.
CNN spokeswoman Lauren Pratapas told The New York Post: ‘This was a typical audience size for a CNN town hall.’
She did not elaborate on the reason for the small crowd size.
On social media, people were quick to note the empty room.
Clever camera angles showed a packed auditorium, but reporters noticed plenty of empty seats. A CNN spokesman said that the crowd was usual for their town halls. It was unclear whether that was because of the pandemic
Radio host Mark Vargas noted: ‘President Biden speaks to a half empty room during a town hall tonight with @donlemon.
‘This is Hamilton County in Cincinnati, a county that Biden won in 2020. Let that sink in.’
Steve Herman, Voice of America’s White House bureau chief, tweeted another picture and said: ‘The audience for the @CNN ‘town hall’ is all seated in forward rows. Back of the auditorium is empty.’
One critic tweeted: ‘THE JIG IS UP More than half empty.’
Another said: ‘#JoeBiden – even people who voted for him can’t be bothered.’
U.S. states putting an early end to federal unemployment benefits saw a larger jump in local labor supply in June – above people line up outside a newly reopened career center for in-person appointments in Louisville
The 26 states ending extra unemployment benefits early
More than two dozen states have ended or plan to end the extra $300 in federal unemployment assistance that many Americans received to help them weather the the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funds were renewed in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, passed in March.
But some states have decided to end the benefits early as some business owners complain they are trying to fill jobs.
Here are the states and the date the benefits will end there:
Alaska June 12
Missouri June 12
Mississippi June 12
Iowa June 12
Alabama June 19
Idaho June 19
*Indiana June 19
Nebraska June 19
New Hampshire June 19
North Dakota June 19
West Virginia June 19
Wyoming June 19
Arkansas June 26
Florida June 26
Georgia June 26
Montana June 26
Ohio June 26
Oklahoma June 26
South Carolina June 26
South Dakota June 26
Texas June 26
Utah June 26
Maryland July 3
Tennessee July 3
Arizona July 10
Louisiana August 3
At the height of the pandemic, Trump approved a bill allowing an $300 weekly supplement to be added to unemployment benefits, and that the federal unemployment programs be expanded to provide benefits to freelancers, the self-employed, independent contractors and certain people affected by the coronavirus and to those who have exhausted their regular state benefits.
Citing workforce shortages, 26 states terminated early at least one of the three pandemic unemployment insurance programs Congress enacted in March 2020 and extended twice. The Biden administration has said governors could restart the programs if they chose to.
Some 4.1 million Americans will be affected by the states ending benefits early, according to The Century Foundation.
Some economists argue the federal benefit remains an economic lifeline, that many jobless Americans want to return to work but aren’t able to because they can’t access child care or remain fearful of contracting COVID-19.
But many of the states decided to end the benefits after some business owners complained of being unable to fill jobs.
Workers in Indiana, Maryland, Texas and Ohio sued their states for ending jobless benefits early.
Judges in Maryland and Indiana made decisions to temporarily reinstate federal benefits.
Lanni told him: ‘We employ hundreds of hard-working team members throughout the state of Ohio and throughout the country. We’re looking to hire more every day as we try to restart our restaurant business.
‘The entire industry, amongst other industries, continue to struggle to find employees.
‘How do you and the Biden administration plan to incentivize those who haven’t returned to work yet? Hiring is our top priority right now.’
Biden appeared to accept that the additional unemployment payments may have discouraged people from working.
State-level jobs data released earlier this month show that in the 26 states stopping benefits early an additional 174,000 people joined the labor force in June, by either taking jobs or beginning work searches, compared to 47,000 in the other states.
The numbers are small in a national labor force of 161 million and come with a cautionary note: Job gains in both groups of states were roughly the same.
‘All kidding aside, I think it really is a matter of people deciding now that they have opportunities to do other things and there’s a shortage of employees, people are looking to make more money and to bargain,’ said Biden.
‘So I think your business and the tourist business is really going to be in a bind for a little while.
‘One of the things.
‘We’re ending all of those things keeping people from going back to work, et cetera.
‘It will be interesting to see what happens, but my gut tells me, my gut tells me that part of it relates to, you know, you can make a good salary as a waiter or waitress.’
He said his sister-in-law in Atlantic City was a waitress, and doing well. He told how his late wife Neilia’s father tried to convince him to take over their restaurant in Syracuse, New York – but Biden saw how hard the work was.
‘There’s some evidence that maintaining the ability to continue to not have your – have to pay your rent so you don’t get thrown out, and being able to provide for unemployment insurance – has kept people from going back to work.’
A ‘Now Hiring’ sign advertising jobs at a hand car wash is seen along a street in Miami, Florida in 2020
Asked directly by the host, Don Lemon, whether he accepted that the unemployment benefits disincentivized people from finding work, Biden demurred.
‘I don’t think it did much,’ the president said.
‘It’s argued that because the extended unemployment benefits kept people at home.’
Lemon asked: ‘You don’t think it did that?’
Biden replied: ‘I see no evidence it had any serious impact on it.
‘You can argue it.
‘Let’s assume it did. It’s coming to an end. It’s not like we’re in a situation where if that was it and it ends, then John’s going to have no problem.’
Biden returned again to his argument that companies were not paying livable wages, which was the reason they struggled to find staff.
‘One of my programs is make sure that we have four more years of school that’s free, two years for three-year-olds and four-year-olds, because it’s demonstrated that increases significantly success and community college,’ he said.
‘Those folks are not likely to want to go and be waiters. Nothing wrong with being a waiter or waitress, my family’s been involved in that business.
‘If you make less than 15 bucks an hour working 40 hours a week, you’re living below the poverty level. You’re living below the poverty level.’
John Lanni asked Biden how he could improve the situation for business owners struggling to find enough workers
He also told Lanni that he and his fellow restaurant owners should be grateful for the subsidies they received, saying: ‘We kept you open. We spent billions of dollars to make sure restaurants could stay open.’
He said it was and remained ‘the right thing to do’.
Lanni, a registered Republican, told The Cincinnati Enquirer that he was unsatisfied with Biden’s response, and added that the they are paying, with tips, at least $15 in most cases.
‘I was hoping he would recognize it is every industry’s dilemma,’ he said after the event.
‘We are in a labor crisis and we need to find a way to incentivize people to get back to work. I just heard restaurants are going to have a hard road going forward and that we need to pay our workers more.
‘That’s happening and it’s still not enough.’
Lanni said 80 to 90 per cent of his company’s workers make more than livable wage, if it’s considered $15 an hour.
‘I feel like he didn’t really answer the question,’ Lanni said.
Biden warns kids WILL have to wear masks in school and says Fox News had an ‘altar call’ to start pushing vaccines but the president dodges questions about new lockdowns at town hall with Don Lemon
Biden said children under 12 and all unvaccinated students will have to wear masks in school when the Centers for Disease Control issues new guidance as he urged people to get vaccinated on Wednesday evening during a CNN town hall.
He said tackling misinformation online was one of his top priorities and said he welcomed the way vaccine skeptics on Fox News had made a U-turn in recent days.
The event was held in a part of Cincinnati that voted heavily for former President Trump, giving Biden a chance to reach across the country’s divisions and speak directly to voters.
His first questioner, a member of a school board, asked for his message to parents worried about protecting children too young for vaccines.
He said he was optimistic that children under 12 would be approved for vaccination in the coming months before unveiling future guidelines.
‘The CDC is going to say that what we should do is, everyone under the age of 12 should probably be wearing a mask in school, that’s probably what’s going to happen,’ he said
‘Secondly, those over the age of 12, who are able to get vaccinated if you’re vaccinated, you shouldn’t wear a mask if you aren’t vaccinated, you should be wearing a mask.’
President Biden took the stage to a warm reception as he brought his messages on vaccines, infrastructure and the economy to Trump-supporting Ohio for a CNN town hall in Cincinnati
He faced questions on protecting children from COVID-19, replacing crumbling infrastructure, defunding the police, rebuilding the economy, tackling coronavirus misinformation and more
Biden said he welcomed the way vaccine skeptics on Fox News were changing their tune, although he referred to ‘one of those other networks that is not a big fan of mine’
That will come with responsibilities for parents, he added.
‘So it’s going to get a little bit tight in terms of well, are mom or dad being honest that… Johnny did or did not get vaccinated,’ he said. ‘That’s gonna raise questions.’
COVID-19 cases have nearly tripled across the U.S. as doctors battle the Delta variant and a pandemic of misinformation that is being spread online. Deaths and hospitalizations are nearly all among the unvaccinated.
‘If you’re vaccinated, you’re not going to be hospitalized, you’re not going to be in the IC unit, and you’re not going to die,’ said Biden.
‘So it’s gigantically important that … we all act like Americans who care about our fellow Americans.’
He expanded on the theme when a paediatrician who voted Republican said she was worried about the impact of misinformation on social media.
Twelve people he said were responsible for most of the misinformation online he said, repeating a White House talking point.
‘They’re killing people those 12 individuals,’ he said. ‘That misinformation is going to kill people, not a joke, not a joke.’
Then he delivered some good news about ‘one of those other networks that is not a big fan of mine’ – a clear reference to Fox News.
‘If you notice, as they say, in the southern part of my state, they’ve had an altar call some of those guys,’ he said.
All of a sudden they are out there saying let’s get vaccinated. The very people who before this were saying…’
He cut himself off with a smile.
‘But I shouldn’t make fun,’ he said. ‘It’s good, it’s good.
The audience asked about how to protect children from COVID-19 if they are too young for the vaccines and how he was tackling vaccine misinformation
Sean Hannity, one of the network’s primetime stars, has been urging viewers to get vaccinated.
And this week, during a discussion about deaths of unvaccinated people, the Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy also told viewers: ‘Get the shot, it will save your life.’
The audience – which Lemon said had all been vaccinated – responded warmly when Biden appeared on stage, even in an apparently heavily pro-Trump area.
Questions included what was he doing to tackle gun violence and his plans for replacing crumbling infrastructure, a hot topic in Cincinnati where the ageing Brent Spence Bridge is frequently shut to traffic.
He also took the chance to repeat talking points that are familiar to anyone tuning in to one of his video addresses but may not have been seen by busy, working families.
A surge in consumer prices would be temporary, he promised, adding that his economic plan would drive down inflation in the long term.
‘The vast majority of the experts, including Wall Street, are suggesting that it’s highly unlikely that it’s going to be long-term inflation that’s going to get out of hand,’ he said.
Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan suffered a setback on Wednesday, as Republicans rejected his proposals in a vote. The bipartisan group of senators who negotiated the package said they were close to reaching a new deal in a statement after the vote.
The president insisted he remained confident. ‘It’s a good thing and I think we’re going to get it done,’ he said.
Ohio was once a key swing state that could deliver the White House to one candidate to another. But in recent years it has moved firmly into the red column.
Biden’s visit reflects his enduring belief that he can cross America’s political divides by appealing directly to voters.
U.S. President Joe Biden talks with Robert Guthrie, instructor and IBEW Local 212 Journeyman Wireman, and apprentice Nicholas Patton at an IBEW/NECA union electrician training center in Cincinnati, Ohio
Biden’s visit is a reminder of how the president believes he can avoid the country’s divides by connecting directly with voters in Republican states such as Ohio
‘Half of life is showing up, and Joe Biden shows up,’ John Anzalone, Biden’s presidential campaign pollster, told the Associated Press.
‘He’s going to be a president for people who voted for him and people who voted against him.’
The state faces a particularly lively election next year following the retirement of Sen. Rob Portman, one of the more centrist Republicans who was involved in negotiating the bipartisan $973 billion infrastructure plan that now hangs in the balance.
‘President Joe Biden will visit a great city suffering from devastating levels of violent crime caused by the failed leadership of Democrat Mayor John Cranley,’ said Ohio Republican Party Chair Bob Paduchik, before the visit.
Before the town hall in Cincinnati, Biden visited a training center for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to discuss his policies to create union jobs.
‘The alarm goes off we’re going to run,’ he joked as he walked into an area where apprentices are taught how to install and repair fire alarms.
He met an apprentice and heard about training programs.
Biden said ‘unions are the best’ when it comes to training, saying they “built the middle class.”
Joe Biden talks of his pride at Hunter’s recovery from addiction as he calls for more federal resources for addicts and mandatory rehab rather than prison for drug use
President Biden spoke passionately about his son Hunter’s recovery from drug addiction on Wednesday evening as he demanded more federal resources for addicts and for mandatory rehab to replace incarceration.
Amid questions about COVID-19 and the economy, the moment brought one of the most animated responses from the president.
‘I am so damn proud of my son,’ he told CNN host Don Lemon on stage at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio.
‘My son just wrote a book about how he overcame being addicted and he did it and he’s doing it and he’s in good shape, thank God.’ he said.
President Biden spoke passionately about his son Hunter’s recovery from addiction as he laid out his four-point plan for ensuring that addicts get the help they need
The president spoke of his pride at the way his son Hunter had overcome addiction. ‘My son just wrote a book about how he overcame being addicted and he did it and he’s doing it and he’s in good shape,’ said Biden
Hunter has been a favorite target of conservative critics, who have delighted in his troubles and accused him repeatedly of cashing in on the family name.
Biden used his example and experience to set out a series of solutions to tackling the nations epidemic of drug abuse.
‘Here’s the thing. We don’t have nearly enough people involved in mental health and drug addiction services, number one,’ he said to some of the loudest applause of the night.
‘Number two, we shouldn’t be sending people to jail for use. We should be sending them to mandatory rehabilitation. Mandatory rehabilitation.
‘Number three, when people are in jail… if that’s not the main crime … they should be getting treatment while they are in jail.
‘Fourth, when people get out of jail, whether it’s for drug addiction or any other crime. If they’ve served their time, they should have full access to everything from Pell grants to public housing.’
More than 93,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2020, according to the latest figures from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention – an almost 30 percent increase on the previous year.
‘We have to deal with the idea of addiction by providing for what we all know: it’s a disease of the brain… and has to be treated as such,’ said Biden.