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Restaurant sign blaming ‘government handouts’ for staff shortage stirs controversy

V Pizza
V Pizza

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The owner of a popular Jacksonville pizza chain says their corporate offices did not approve of, nor do they believe in, a message on the door of one of their Georgia franchises, criticizing people who receive unemployment for not working.

The sign, posted on Twitter early Friday morning, reads: “Sadly, due to government handouts no one wants to work anymore. Therefore, we are short staffed. Please be patient with the staff that did choose to come to work today and remember to tip your server. They chose to show up to serve you.”

Social media users criticized the sign and quickly pointed out the various V Pizza restaurants also received more than $2 million in PPP loans from the federal government. The owner of V Pizza said it was able to re-hire workers that were laid off earlier in the pandemic after receiving the assistance.

The owner of the franchise, Paul Scott, who opened his first storefront in San Marco, said the message does not reflect his feelings about ongoing struggles to find workers as businesses begin re-opening.

He told News4Jax the sign was posted by the owner of a franchise location in Georgia. Scott said he asked the franchise to remove the sign after learning about it on social media.

“That sign and the wording with it, there’s so much wrong with it,” said Scott. “But, the one truth of the sign is everyone is having a hard time hiring because the reality is what we can pay our staff, you know, typically one of our staff members makes $14-$15 an hour, if a person is sitting home and they have children that they’ve got to put in daycare and they’re able to get almost as much money staying at home and keeping their kids versus daycare. Nobody blames a person for making a smart decision for their family.”

“Yes, we are understaffed, there is no doubt, but we’re not so severely understaffed. Our people, the workforce comes in with a great attitude every day. As an owner, we try to support them in every possible way that we can support them,” he continued.

The sentiment on the poster is like the initiative being taken up by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. This week, Florida DEO announced as a part of an initiative pushing Floridians to “return to work” the state will no longer participate in the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, starting June 26.

The program added $300 a week to people receiving unemployment assistance from the state of Florida during the pandemic.

“Now, we’re transitioning from kind of relief in the midst of a crisis to now having the more traditional re-employment outlook,” said DeSantis during a press conference in May.

Advocates, like Florida Rep. Anna Eskamani, spoke Thursday urging the governor to continue allowing Floridians to receive the additional $300 a week.

“Many of the folks that we have right now that are still on unemployment and are very scared of losing these federal $300 benefits, it includes mothers, it includes our seniors, our veterans, folks that can’t work a typical 9-5 job and just the lack of compassion and understanding,” said Rep. Eskamani.

Jim Ricer, a former business owner in Boca Raton, says the economic fallout of the pandemic forced him to close down his business. He said the federal assistance has been his only means for making money.

“I worked for myself 19 years because of my physical ailments. It gave me the opportunity to stop and take a break if I needed to. On March 27, I lost my business completely,” said Ricer. “After 19 years of working for myself in the state of Florida, here in Boca Raton, we don’t qualify for unemployment. Because I was an S-corporation I did not get any money from the state. I have only been living off the money from the government. Last year, I made $16,000.”

About the Author:

Kelly Wiley, an award-winning investigative reporter, joined the News4Jax I-Team in June 2019.