Freeport’s Union Dairy ice cream shop says ‘government handouts’ responsible for staff shortage

Local News

FREEPORT, Ill. (WTVO) — The Union Dairy ice cream shop in Freeport caught some attention this week for a sign posted on its door reading, “Sadly, due to the government handouts, no one wants to work anymore. Therefore, we are short staffed.”

Small businesses across the nation have reported they have had a hard time finding workers once states reopened following the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the pandemic, the government issued periodic stimulus checks to bolster the economy and keep homes and businesses afloat. In addition to the stimulus money, those out of work were able to receive $300 a week in addition to unemployment.

Several states have opted out of the federal $300 a week bonus in an effort to get residents back to work, but Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has said the state will continue with the extra money until it runs out on September 6th.

Martiny McClellan is the general manager of Union Dairy, located at 126 E Douglas St. She says the ice cream shop’s staff is down nearly 50% this year.

“The staff that I do have, they’re just being overworked because they have to work everyday, or longer hours,” she said. “We’re operating with half the staff we normally have.

“As far as customer service goes, it definitely affects that, a lot,” she continued. “If we’re getting busy on these hot days and we just don’t have enough staff to support it, we don’t have enough people here.”

Shop supervisor Han Parks asks customers to be patient with the staff who did return to work.

“It’s just been taking a bit longer to help them as fast as we want to, so someone people have been pretty upset about it,” Parks said.

McClellan says she believes the extra unemployment money is to blame for the staff shortage.

“People are getting paid a lot more to stay at home now. I lost a lot of my employees last year, when the pandemic hit. And then, we had to start over with, basically, a full new crew this year,” she said.

Pritzker has said he does not support reinstating a pre-pandemic requirement that an unemployed person show they are currently looking for work. The governor has said he believes people have legitimate reasons for remaining on unemployment.

“We do just ask that people do understand that it is hard on the ones that came to work,” McClellan said.

Union Dairy says it will close on Mondays due to the staffing shortage, but McClellan says they are hiring.

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