- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 21, 2021

President Biden late Wednesday was criticized by Republicans after he told a restaurant owner to pay his employees higher wages or risk having them leave for better jobs.

John Lanni, an owner and co-founder of a restaurant group, said his business is struggling to find workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

He asked the president during a CNN town hall if the government would incentivize returning to work for people who are choosing to collect lucrative unemployment benefits instead of securing employment. 

“It really is a matter of people deciding now that they have opportunities to do other things,” Mr. Biden responded. “People are looking to make more money and to bargain.”

“My guess is that people making $7, $8 an hour plus tips, that’s — I think John — you are going to be finding $15 an hour now. You may pay that already,” the president continued.

Some on social media blasted the president’s response.

SEE ALSO: Biden on CNN town hall ducks questions on mask mandates, more virus restrictions

“Watch: Joe Biden scolds a struggling small business owner to pay more to find workers,” RNC Research said in a tweet.

Ohio Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance chimed in, saying Mr. Lanni has done a lot of good in Cincinnati.

“This response is a joke,” Mr. Vance tweeted.

The president also pointed out that his administration worked to keep restaurants in business amid the pandemic. He told Mr. Lanni, “we kept you open. We spent billions of dollars to make sure restaurants could stay open.”

CNN’s Don Lemon pressed Mr. Biden on whether Americans were choosing to not work because the enhanced employment benefits gave workers higher pay than their jobs.

“I see no evidence it had any serious impact on it,” Mr. Biden said, suggesting that Mr. Lanni can’t fill jobs because Americans are changing careers.

SEE ALSO: ‘Isn’t a random sampling’: Biden finds extremely pro-Democratic audience at CNN town hall

“There’s a lot of openings now in jobs and people are beginning to move,” Mr. Biden said. “There’s a lot of people looking to change their occupation.”

He also told Mr. Lanni that he should expect his industry will struggle while the pandemic still rages. 

“I think your business and the tourist business is really going to be in a bind for a little while,”  Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Lanni did not respond to requests for comment from The Washington Times 

Mr. Lanni told the Cincinnati Enquirer that Mr. Biden‘s answer wasn’t sufficient. He added that 80% to 90% of his company’s workers make a livable wage — $15 an hour.

“I feel like he didn’t really answer the question,” Mr. Lanni said in an interview. 

“I was hoping he would recognize it is every industry’s dilemma,” he continued. “We are in a labor crisis, and we need to find a way to incentivize people to get back to work. I just heard restaurants are going to have a hard road going forward and that we need to pay our workers more. That’s happening, and it’s still not enough.”

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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