COVID-19 creates worker shortage in Port Aransas

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Posted at 9:10 PM, Jul 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-07 00:22:03-04

Business owners and managers in Port Aransas said the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t negatively impacted the number of people visiting town recently. What it has impacted though, is how they’ve hired for summer.

KRIS 6 News spoke to several owners and managers who said, a couple of weeks ago, they were struggling to hire people and keep places open.Thankfully, the situation has gotten a bit better, but they say there’s a number of reasons why hiring was so difficult especially in the beginning of the season.

Some businesses have also had to limit their hours of operation because of staffing shortages.

Trevor Pancoast, the assistant manager at Tortuga’s said he sometimes was competing with unemployment compensation when he was looking to hire.

“It was so hard to get help, because a lot of people were at home with unemployment benefits,” said Pancoast.

That, unfortunately, left many Port Aransas businesses struggling to find help.

“It was definitely rough at first,” said Pancoast. “When we first opened up our dining room on May 1, we were very heavily understaffed.”

What’s different this year too, is that the town doesn’t have help from more than 75 J-1 college students. Those students are part of an exchange visitor program, and during the summer months, they go to school in the Coastal Bend. Many of them end up working at Port A businesses.

However, President Donald Trump recently suspended entry of certain immigrants into the country because of the virus, therefore, none of the J-1 students were able to come.

“It’s not unusual for us to have anywhere from nine to 11 people, foreign exchange college students, to come out and come work for us for the summer,” said Mike Hall, the co-owner of Family Center IGA.

“The J-1 students were very important to helping us have a smooth summer and keep everything rolling,” said Pancoast.

Meanwhile other people gave medical or personal reasons why they can’t work during the pandemic.