ST. CLOUD -- A recent survey conducted by the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce and the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation looked at the impact a lack of workers is having on local businesses.

Chamber President Teresa Bohnen says the inability to fill open positions is at a critical point, and they say it is being driven primarily by the $300 a week extra unemployment benefits.

She says the state needs to be strictly enforcing the requirements to receive unemployment benefits.

To actively and aggressively enforce the eligibility requirements that are already in place in the Minnesota unemployment insurance program.  And that means if people aren't going back to work they need to show proof that they are seeking employment every week.  That's not happening right now.

She says it has been difficult for businesses to get -- and keep -- employees.

We've got reports of people who aren't showing up for jobs once they've been hired, people not showing up for interviews once they've scheduled an appointment.  Those things we think should be tracked and followed up on through the unemployment insurance system to make sure people are doing what they are supposed to be doing to get hired.

Deputy Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Blake Chaffee responds work-search requirements were never "turned off" like in some other states.

We're talking to a lot of folks, and what we're hearing from them is that they're looking for work, they're trying to get back to work.

Bohnen says the maximum term length that you can be on unemployment was extended last year, and she believes that needs to go back to what it was pre-pandemic.

There has been some talk from Republican state lawmakers to drop the $300 a week extra benefit from the federal government and use that money instead as a bonus incident for people who go back to work and stay on the job for a certain period of time.

Bohnen says the Chamber and GSCD presented their action plan to local state lawmakers Wednesday, however, they say it is really in the hands of DEED and the Governor right now.

Bohnen says, as the number of COVID cases continues to decline and the number of people who are fully vaccinated goes up, it is time to get people back to work.

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