"A lot of people who worked as waiters and waitresses decided that they don’t want to do that anymore because there’s other opportunities at higher wages," Biden suggested. "There’s not much distinction between not going back to work at a restaurant and not going back to work at a factory, so people are looking to change opportunities, change what they’re doing."
Biden responded to a question during a CNN town hall from a restaurateur asking about hiring deficiencies nationwide. He said he thinks it is a matter of employees "looking to make more money and bargain."
"I think your business and the tourist business is really going to be in a bind for a little while," he noted.
Biden suggested that former waiters and waitresses who made $7 to $8 an hour were ditching their previous occupations for positions that pay $15 an hour.
"If you make less than $15 an hour working 40 days a week you’re making below the poverty level," the president went on.
It must be noted that waiters make tips and can often earn far more than $15 per hour.
Biden addressed the argument posed by GOP lawmakers who have suggested hiring shortages persist in the U.S. because federal social stimulus programs delivered throughout the pandemic have continued.
"We’re ending all those things keeping people back from going to work, etc," Biden said.
Biden touted his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, which funded a program that provides relief to restaurants severely impacted by virus-related closures and restrictions, before suggesting that low wages could be keeping people from returning to work.
“I think it really is a matter of people deciding now that they have opportunities to do other things and where there is a shortage of employees, people are looking to make more money and to bargain. And so I think your business and the tourist business is really going to be in a bind for a little while,” Biden said.
The president added, though, that he does not believe there is evidence to support the claim that unemployment benefits have kept people from applying to restaurant jobs.
"I see no evidence it has any serious impact on it," Biden concluded.
Republicans and organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have argued that the expanded unemployment benefits funded by Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law actually discouraged people from going back to work. The $300 additional federal benefit is slated to end in September. Several states have opted to end the benefits early.
However, Biden administration officials like Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen have disputed that narrative, saying the data does not show that the expanded benefits drove down unemployment.