A number of new retailers and restaurants have recently opened their doors at Willow Lawn.
Pancake house IHOP opened March 5 in a 4,094 square-foot space between Alpha Comics and European Wax. 60 new positions were hired for the restaurant, which seats 150 customers inside and 32 on an outside patio.
The arts and crafts store Michaels opened at Willow Lawn on February 27. Michaels is in a 17,477 square-foot space near Gold’s Gym and Ross Dress for Less.
Other new additions at Willow Lawn include CAVA, which opened in January 2021, and &Pizza, which opened its first Richmond location at the shopping center in September 2020.
In addition to IHOP and Michaels, Willow Lawn features a variety of retail, dining, and services including Kroger, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Alpha Comics & Games, Lucky Road, and Pho 95 Hai Ky Mi Gia.
Unemployment benefits aren’t the only thing keeping workers at home
Business owners, chambers of commerce types and some local officials around Virginia swore that ending enhanced unemployment benefits – of $300 a week from the federal government – would propel folks back into the workforce who’d been home during the pandemic. That may not be the case.
Business owners, chambers of commerce types and some local officials around Virginia swore that ending enhanced unemployment benefits – of $300 a week from the federal government – would propel folks back into the workforce who’d been home during the pandemic.
The commonwealth should play a figurative Scrooge, these folks said, because places including restaurants, hotels and small businesses needed these employees. “Turbocharge the cash registers!” they cried.
This line of thinking was a gross oversimplification of the (so-called) post-pandemic economy. Nor do I think it was by accident. Demonizing low-wage workers has been a sport in this country for ages.
Several factors have kept people on the sidelines, not just the government largesse. The recent uptick in COVID-19 infections and persistent vaccine resistance, for example, would make anybody leery of working outside the home.
Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has repeatedly said the commonwealth will keep doling out the checks until the Sept. 6 deadline, and a spokeswoman confirmed that to me again on Monday. It’s a wise, compassionate decision.
About half of the states, mostly led by Republican governors, ended their programs early, however.
Now a study by a university professor of the early impacts of canceling the benefits suggests there’s been no rush to return to the workforce – even after states declined the money.
“This doesn’t seem to have translated into most of these individuals having jobs in the first 2-3 weeks following expiration,” said Arindrajit Dube, economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “However, there is evidence that the reduced (unemployment insurance) benefits increased self-reported hardship in paying for regular expenses.”
Those checks have been deemed wasteful recently by critics, but several factors are keeping people at home. Shame on those who said otherwise – and depicted many Americans as freeloaders for not waiting on tables, changing sheets, or ringing up customers.
Caveats abound to Dube’s study, as CNBC reported. Some states hadn’t reverted to a lack of federal benefits very long. Dube noted more time and information are needed.
Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer was among those who urged Northam to cut off benefits sooner. His tourist-heavy locality can use workers, especially during the summer. Many of those jobs, though, didn’t pay well and can be physically demanding. Many employers are now dangling fatter paychecks, but finding workers is still a hurdle.
Dyer told me Monday the issue is moot now, since September is around the corner and with it, the end of the peak tourist season. He’d talked to many business owners who were desperate for workers, and Dyer was voicing their concerns to the guv, he told me.
Dyer also said employers at places like Stihl Inc., which have higher-paying and higher-skilled jobs, have told him they can’t fill vacancies. “Workforce is the biggest challenge we’ve got,” Dyer said. “If we’re going to have businesses, we have to supply the bodies.”
Since the pandemic, however, many adults and families are reassessing the necessity of working outside the home. They value spending more time with their children, while giving up lengthy commutes.
And given our notorious reputation for being overworked compared to the rest of developed nations, many Americans wonder if our former job habits still make sense. Everyone is re-evaluating the trade-offs.
Vinod Agarwal is an economics professor at Old Dominion University and deputy director of its Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy. I knew he’d give me a balanced assessment of the unemployment insurance controversy.
Business owners who say the enhanced benefits are the sole cause of the labor shortage are just wrong, he said. Since the pandemic started, some workers left the labor force entirely. Many women, Agarwal noted, made less than their male partners, and they often assumed the primary task of helping children who could not go to in-person school.
Minority women often had the task of taking care of elderly relatives, too. A Trump administration crackdown on J-1 visas for overseas workers also played a role, Agarwal noted, particularly in tourist-heavy areas like Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Among formerly low-income workers, some now have greater flexibility and choices. “Unless the wages go up, a lot of these workers won’t return to the marketplace,” the professor said.
From daycare concerns and costs, to the aggravation of low-paying jobs, many families – especially those with two adults – are reassessing what’s important. Should they return to the market, when employers aren’t meeting their goals and conditions are less than desirable?
Enhanced unemployment benefits are going to end. Our place in the revamped economy is just beginning.
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Elephant Insurance to give $300,000 to organizations impacted by COVID-19
Elephant Insurance announced that the company is launching a new initiative, known as the Helping Herd, that will donate $300,000 to organizations and programs that have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic or who are providing COVID-19 relief to their community.
Elephant Insurance announced that the company is launching a new initiative, known as the Helping Herd, that will donate $300,000 to organizations and programs that have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic or who are providing COVID-19 relief to their community. The program will launch in June and gifts will be distributed between June and December 2021.
Through the Helping Herd, Elephant’s hope is to reach at least 50 organizations or programs with the funds, with gifts ranging in size from $2,000 to $20,000. Elephant team members will be involved in the selection process, either by nominating deserving groups or participating in the voting process to finalize the recipients.
The program was made possible by Elephant’s parent company, Admiral Group, which shares in Elephant’s mission of making a positive impact on local communities during challenging times.
“We know the Helping Herd initiative will be able to make a significant impact on individuals and communities that are hurting due to COVID-19, and Elephant is grateful to be in a position to step up and give back in this way,” said Alberto Schiavon, CEO. “The Elephant team – our herd – is eager to be a part of this important process, and we’re so appreciative of the support of Admiral Group to make this possible.”
To be considered to receive funds, applicants must serve the community in at least one of three areas: mental health, physical health, or community health. Interested organizations or programs will be able to apply to receive funds at https://www.elephant.com/contact/helping-herd-submission, where more details on eligibility are available. Applications will be accepted through August 1, 2021.
In addition to the submission form, nominations will be collected from Elephant employees by survey. A large portion of the funds are anticipated to be distributed in Virginia, where Elephant is headquartered, but Helping Herd funds will also go to organizations in other states where Elephant services are offered, including Texas.
Governor Northam drops COVID restrictions as Virginia fully reopens
All capacity and gathering restrictions are now lifted as Virginia fully reopens. Businesses can still make their own rules about whether patrons must wear masks, however.
Governor Ralph Northam today dropped all distancing and capacity restrictions, two weeks earlier than planned. Northam’s office says Virginia is able to take these steps as a result of “increasing vaccination rates, dramatically declining COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and statewide test positivity rate, and revised federal guidelines.”
“Virginians have been working hard, and we are seeing the results in our strong vaccine numbers and dramatically lowered case counts,” said Governor Northam. “That’s why we can safely move up the timeline for lifting mitigation measures in Virginia. I strongly urge any Virginian who is not yet vaccinated to do so—the vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your community from COVID-19. The message is clear: vaccinations are how we put this pandemic in the rearview mirror and get back to being with the people we love and doing the things we have missed.”
The CDC guidelines state that fully-vaccinated individuals do not have to wear masks in most indoor settings, except on public transit, in health care facilities, and in congregate settings. Businesses retain the ability to require masks in their establishments. Employees who work in certain business sectors—including restaurants, retail, fitness, personal care, and entertainment—must continue to wear masks unless fully vaccinated, per CDC guidance. Those who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear masks in all settings.
The state of emergency in Virginia will remain in place at least through June 30 to provide flexibility for local government and support ongoing COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Governor Northam will take executive action to ensure individuals have the option to wear masks up to and after that date. Masks will continue to be required in K-12 public schools, given low rates of vaccination among children.