ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Maryland appears to be cracking down on those who are being offered back the job they lost in the pandemic -- but are now refusing to return to, preferring to accept unemployment insurance benefits instead.
A Maryland Department of Labor spokesperson told FOX 5 DC in writing:
"An email was sent to employers on Tuesday, April 27 informing them that they can now report job refusals and employee return to work dates to the Maryland Division of Unemployment Insurance (DUI). The email provided detailed instructions for how to do so in their BEACON portal. When an employer offers a job to a claimant in filing status or recalls a former employee in layoff status and the individual refuses the job (or fails to return), the employer must notify DUI within 15 days of the refusal. DUI will then determine whether the claimant should be paid or denied benefits. Additional information may be requested from the employer."
Susan Jones, Executive Director with the OC Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association, told FOX 5 DC over the phone, she knows there are legitimate reasons for people not wanting to return to a place of employment. There are also concerns of those scamming the system just to collect unemployment.
This comes as shore communities from Virginia to Delaware are said to be struggling in returning their workforce as more vaccines are available and more people are looking to book "vengeance vacations."
"This is part of the reason why the state of Maryland now is going to start enforcing employees who are currently receiving unemployment to return to work, if they’ve been offered their job back, they need to return to work. We have hotels here on the shore and restaurants that are operating with reduced capacity, not because of COVID, they don’t have the staffing to open their hotel up 100%," Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce President, Bill Chambers.
Chambers referred to the Eastern Shore and other shore communities as being "dire circumstance" and that the worker shortage is slowing recovery at a time when they should be picking-up pace. Chambers also noted how Ocean City, Maryland won’t be getting help again from the J1 summer work travel visa program. If you’re looking for good work, Chambers said, they’ve got it.
Rentals are reportedly booked-up through Labor Day on the Eastern Shore, according to Chambers, who also noted that many rentals are still not operating at full capacity due to staffing shortages.
Chambers is still encouraging people to spend money at their shore communities as they work on bringing back employees.
Travel groups are also warning people about car rental shortages that may complicate booking vacations. This reportedly led tourists in Hawaii to rent U-Hauls instead. A U-Haul spokesperson told FOX 5 they did see a "direct correlation between out-of-state addresses and driver's licenses accounting for tourists in Hawaii."
The company is not seeing that on the mainland. Nor do they recommend it.
Kayla Inserra with the travel booking agency, "Kayak.com," told FOX 5 they are seeing rental car rates skyrocket in places more "outdoorsy," according to their marketing vice president.
Their list of the Top Ten most expensive rental car cities list from the past seven days, shows Bozeman, Montana and Charlestown South Carolina as the first and second, with prices up 278% and 125% respectively from 2019.
They note the average price for a rental car in Bozeman, MT is around $259-a-day. For Charleston, SC, that price is around $146-a-day. There are multiple places in Hawaii on that Top Ten list, which also includes Myrtle Beach, SC at #5 with an average price rental of $135-a-day. Pensacola, FL is listed at #9 at around $125-a-day.
In our Metropolitan Washington area, Baltimore saw a much larger rental search increase than DC and Richmond. Prices are hovering around $90-a-day among the three. Baltimore’s rate is higher at around $95-a-day.
Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia was the only location in the greater DC Metropolitan area to make it to Airbnb’s top trending rural destinations for Memorial Day weekend. A company spokesperson says like Kayak on car rentals, Airbnb is also seeing a trend of people booking vacations further off the beaten path.
FOX 5 was also told they’re seeing an uptick in more older vacationers booking those Airbnb rentals. The company is offering users a "Flexible Dates feature" to give those searching for a vacation spot, more options due to constant COVID19-related changes.
Representing the state’s hospitality industry, the Maryland Hotel and Lodging Association, the Restaurant Association of Maryland, the Maryland Tourism Coalition and the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association wrote a letter to the state’s Department of Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson remove the temporary unemployment exemption of "search for work requirements" and clarify federal unemployment guidance as a way to signal Marylanders that it is time to get back to work.
The letter reads in part:
"Why would MD Unemployment continue to provide benefits to individuals who are recalled to safe worksites? Maryland has done such an amazing job providing the opportunity for residents to get vaccines further providing safe worksites.
As more Marylanders become vaccinated and the weather warms, the pent-up demand for travel continues to climb. Hospitality businesses are more than prepared to continue to offer a safe travel experience, but we desperately need staff to do so."