SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — With the economy almost fully reopened now, businesses are complaining that the state’s unemployment benefits are so generous, it’s keeping people from looking for work. So, starting this week, those receiving benefits will have to at least say they’re looking for a job.

Robert La Come is quite the gambler. At age 71, in the middle of the COVID-19pandemic, he bought City Forest Catering in San Francisco when no catered events were happening. Now, just when the customers are finally back, he says the workers aren’t.

“The problem for me is people are getting paid not to work,” he said. “They’re getting that unemployment and that’s what they’re telling me, ‘Oh, I’m getting unemployment, I can’t work.’ Or, ‘Once it’s over, then I can work for you.’”

During the pandemic, when there were no jobs available, the State Employment Development Department (EDD) dropped the requirement that people getting unemployment benefits actively search for a job. Then the federal government sweetened the pot by giving an extra $300 a week to people out of work. That created a disincentive for people to rejoin the workforce and EDD is taking the first steps to correct that.

“Now, starting this week, for those who are on regular unemployment as well as the federal extension benefits, they should be looking for work,” said EDD spokesperson, Loree Levy. “So, when they go to certify for this week, starting on Sunday, they can say, yes, I was looking for work.”

Levy said people certifying that they looked for work are doing so under penalty of perjury. And she said they should keep a log of their efforts in case EDD asks for them to prove it.

But Michael Bernick, who used to be the director of EDD, says there isn’t any requirement for people to prove they’re looking for work and he doubts there will be any real enforcement of it. He says as long as other factors exist that give people more reason to stay home, employers may have struggles hiring.

“I think things will really only begin to change in September when the (federal) unemployment supplement ends,” said Bernick, “And when the schools finally reopen and childcare increases and people’s health concerns, real and imagined, decrease. It’s only when those elements begin to come into play that we’ll see a real return to work.”

Bernick says the pandemic break has given people a chance to rethink whether they want to come back to work at all and at what price.

That could be a problem for La Come, who said he could hire up to 10 more employees. As he heads toward the busy holiday catering season, he hopes his kitchen will be full of workers, once again earning a paycheck, and helping the big bet he placed on the business, pay off.

“I think everybody should pay their way, you know?” he said. “I had to do it. Why shouldn’t they?”

This content was originally published here.

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