With New Jersey on the verge of eliminating most of the remaining pandemic restrictions in the next two weeks, getting people back to work is a challenge in many industries. This is especially true in the restaurant, tourism and hospitality industries. Some restaurant owners have complained some employees are refusing to come back to work, or they can't hire new workers because they make more money on unemployment. Hospitality and tourism businesses down the shore are reporting similar difficulties

State Labor Commissioner Rob Asaro-Angelo says he has heard those stories but doesn't believe it is largely true. Asaro-Angelo told the Senate Budget Committee his department has only gotten 68 complaints from employers about employees refusing to return to work. However, he stressed if that is the case, it's fraud, and urged employers to report it, "I want to be very clear that if you think you have employees who are on unemployment now who aren't returning to work, let us know."

It is conceivable that some individuals are making more on unemployment than they did at lower paying jobs, especially with the enhanced federal benefits. How many workers that involves is not readily available.

In an effort to attract more workers, employers are trying all kinds of incentives. Restaurants have been boosting wages and offering free meals. Some businesses are offering one-time hiring bonuses. Down the shore, hiring issues have hit near crisis levels. Thousands of jobs remain unfilled. The situation is made worse by a lack of foreign workers coming into New Jersey from overseas. These businesses, too, blame the enhanced federal unemployment benefits for depressing the hiring pool. These benefits are not due to expire until September and many employers anticipate hiring issues throughout the entire summer. That's not good for a tourism industry that is reeling from pandemic restrictions and closures last year.

Gov. Phil Murphy predicted a "big summer" down the shore this year as pandemic restrictions are eased. Morey's Piers in Wildwood is offering free use of its parks and waterparks to employees and discounts to friends and family.

Employers are not the only ones offering enticements. State and federal officials are hoping incentives will cause the pace of vaccinations to pick up.

President Joe Biden announced a new ambitious goal of vaccinating 70% of the nation's adult population. He is hoping incentives will persuade the hesitant to roll up their sleeves. Among the enticements, partnerships with major sports leagues.

Biden says there will be "things like ticket giveaways, in-stadium vaccination programs, discounts on merchandise and other creative ways to make it easier and fun to get vaccinated.

New Jersey has similar programs. Several local breweries have signed on to the "Shot and a Beer" program. You get a free beer if you show your vaccination card.

One of the shore's most popular nightclubs will hold a vaccination clinic in Belmar next week. Anyone who shows up to get vaccinated will receive a free VIP access card.

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