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NJBIA President & CEO Michele Siekerka says small businesses hope more people will soon return to the workforce now that bonus COVID-related unemployment benefits are expiring Saturday and childcare challenges will be resolved by schools reopening next week for in-person learning.

In an interview with NJ Spotlight News correspondent Leah Mishkin, Siekerka said short-staffed businesses have had to reduce their hours of operation all summer because of the labor shortage, which has reduced revenues. Many of these businesses face the real possibility of having to close their doors permanently if the hiring crisis continues much longer, she said.

“We’re not operating at 100% capacity, which means we can’t be generating 100% revenue,” Siekerka said in the interview that aired Tuesday night.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced earlier this week that the state would not be using its federal COVID-19 relief aid to pay for several federal programs that expanded unemployment benefits to those who are not typically eligible to receive unemployment, such as gig workers, and to people who had already exhausted their benefits. As of Sept. 4, the $300 weekly unemployment bonus checks will stop as well.

“With this program subsiding and kids going back to school, I think we’ll see a little bit of a bump in our (employment) numbers as a result of this,” Siekerka said. “I’m not thinking there’s going to be a boom because there are still people adjusting.”

Since the start of the pandemic, New Jersey has distributed $33.7 billion worth of jobless benefits, $25 billion of that came from new federal programs that are now expiring. New Jersey’s 7.3% unemployment rate is the fifth highest in the nation.

Go here to see the NJ Spotlight News story and video.