VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Starting soon, if you take a job in the tourism industry in Virginia Beach, you could be eligible for a $1,000 bonus.
The Hampton Roads Workforce Council is starting a back-to-work program to try to incentivize would-be-workers to fill the thousands of open positions currently in restaurants, hotels and attractions in the city.
Earlier this month, Virginia Beach City Council approved giving the group $400,000 for the initiative which will also include gathering research as to why people aren’t filling the jobs.
While the worker shortage has been a nationwide problem as the country has emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic, in the resort area, it hit particularly hard.
“We’re having a really tough time,” said Michael Woodhead, a consultant for the workforce council.
Industry leaders have placed blame on a multitude of factors. Temporary $300-a-week federal unemployment benefits on top of regular state jobless aid benefits, child tax credits, the lack of international students all play a role.
A recent job fair held with Tidewater Community College resulted in zero applicants showing up.
Woodhead said that’s why they are stepping up their approach.
This week, a $100,000 marketing campaign will kick off to try and reach applicants who, thus far, the hospitality industry hasn’t been successful in reaching.
“Let people know not only that we are hiring, that there are good, well paying, career paying jobs in the hospitality industry,” Woodhead said.
Woodhead said wages have increased in an effort to keep up with demand. However, 250 new employees will be eligible for $1,000.
The remaining $50,000 will be used for research.
However, several Virginia Beach City Council members were skeptical about the use of the money.
“What analysis have you done, empirical things to suggest that the amount of bonus will empirically move the needle and will actually result in any meaningful employment?” said Councilman John Moss.
Woodhead said at this point, they don’t have that.
“I don’t think anyone knows if incentives are going to work or not,” Woodhead said. “This is the thing with marketing campaign right? Until you do them, you don’t know if they are going to work.”
Woodhead said while $1,000 might not be a lot of money compared to unemployment, knowing that the extra $300 a week will be ending in September, he hopes people might choose to take advantage of the bonus will they can.
“This has a sunset. We hope to give out the money before Labor Day weekend,” Woodhead said.
The bonus will not be given to employees immediately. Workers would have to complete training first and be in good standing.