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Economic officials hope federal pandemic unemployment cuts fills open jobs

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KEOKUK (WGEM) -- Iowa governor Kim Reynolds announced Tuesday the state is ending its participation in federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits programs, effective June 12.

Officials from the Lee County Economic Development Group said they hope the move fills empty jobs.

"I think its an extra incentive for individuals who have had that extra cushion," project director Dana Millard said.

Local business owners here in Keokuk said the pandemic wrought havoc on their staffing when it first began.

"Our employees with children, they had to be home with their children, homeschooling and we had one girl that got called up to the Guard," Lost Canvas Coffee Shop owner Ginny Henson said.

But as the pandemic has waned businesses across the Tri-States have struggled to get people back to work.

Henson says she's been lucky in that regard.

"I have been fortunate and I have not had trouble getting people back into work," she said. "I have a really good staff."

But others haven't been so lucky. Hawkeye owner Doug Matlick said when he reopened the dining room, half of his employees didn't come back.

He said they've already had to go down to six days a week and if it doesn't get better they may have to go down to five.

But Millard said manufacturers are also looking to hire.

"One in four of our careers are in manufacturing and it's one of our highest paid sectors, so there's a lot of opportunities in Lee County," she said.

Millard says it's forcing companies to compete for applicants and some are getting creative, raising wages and offering incentives like signing bonuses and more.

"You stay for your first three months, you get $1,000 in addition to your regular pay," she said.

Millard said there's a lot of resources available for those reentering the workforce.

"Iowa Works in Burlington does have a great resource as far as finding careers that meet your skill sets and helping you with resume building and interview skills," she said.

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Blake Sammann

Blake Sammann is a reporter and weekend anchor at WGEM News.

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