A Cincinnati area restaurant owner who asked President Biden about his struggles to hire workers because he is competing with expanded federal unemployment benefits said Thursday that the president didn’t answer his question.
John Lanni asked Mr. Biden during a CNN event how his administration plans to persuade people to return to work instead of staying home and receiving lucrative federal benefits.
In response, Mr. Biden said Mr. Lanni needs to pay better wages or risk losing his employees to higher-paying jobs.
Mr. Lanni told The Cincinnati Enquirer that Mr. Biden‘s answer wasn’t sufficient. He said 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 told the paper. “I was hoping he would recognize it is every industry’s dilemma.
“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,” he said. “That’s happening, and it’s still not enough.”
Mr. Lanni did not respond to requests for comment from The Washington Times.
The president said the restaurant owner would continue to be in a “bind” until he starts paying his workers more.
“It really is a matter of people deciding now that they have opportunities to do other things,” Mr. Biden said. “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 said.
Some on social media blasted Mr. Biden‘s response.
“Watch: Joe Biden scolds a struggling small business owner to pay more to find workers,” RNC Research tweeted.
Ohio Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance said 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 has worked to keep restaurants in business during the pandemic. He told Mr. Lanni, “We kept you open. We spent billions of dollars to make sure restaurants could stay open.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Mr. Lanni has hiring issues because it’s a “workers market.”
“In some places, it may be that you have to pay more wages in order to attract workers,” she said. “We don’t have the details about his individual circumstances.”
Asked whether the administration could do anything to help the restaurant owner, Ms. Psaki cited the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which was part of Mr. Biden’s $1.9 billion coronavirus relief plan.
She said the plan has helped “many, many hundreds of restaurants” across the country stay open.