RI businesses continue to struggle with worker, inventory shortages

Business News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — While Brewed Awakenings Coffee House remains a popular coffee chain in Rhode Island, it unfortunately hasn’t been popular among those looking for work.

David Levesque, who owns all five Brewed Awakenings locations, said he’s short dozens of employees.

Levesque said all three people his team recently hired didn’t show for work on Monday, once again forcing him to step in and help his remaining employees.

“I ended up in the kitchen on the food line,” he said.

Levesque said he’s had to temporarily close his Johnston location due to the worker shortage, and his other locations are now only open for limited hours.

He said he’s desperate for help.

“If you brought me 55 full-time employees that really wanted to work, I’d hire them all,” Levesque said. “We don’t have enough staff to increase hours … just having the 55 [workers] would stop the bleeding.”

Across the state, owner of Coffee and Crumbs Brian Buonaiuto is facing a different type of shortage.

He said he’s been constantly dealing with inventory shortages, especially of items that he desperately needs to keep his coffee shop running.

“Every week when we place an order, we don’t know how much of it is actually going to show up,” Buonaiuto said. “Across the board we’ve had a lot of problems with paper goods, plastics … getting cups has probably been one of the biggest challenges.”

While Buonaiuto isn’t necessarily experiencing a worker shortage himself, he said worker shortages elsewhere are causing the supply chain to slow.

“With the cups, what we’re being told is the factories are having issues with getting the material, and I guess factories aren’t running all the time because of labor shortages,” Buonaiuto explained.

Levesque blamed the shortages on the federal unemployment programs put into place during the height of the pandemic.

“People have allowed people to stay on unemployment and not go to work, so there’s a shortage in every single industry,” he said. “That’s the problem.”

The R.I. Department of Labor and Training reports that 9,125 people received unemployment benefits last week, which is down from 54,231 the previous week. The sharp decline comes after federal benefits expired for millions of Americans earlier this month.

12 News reached out to Gov. Dan McKee’s office about the worker shortages plaguing the state’s small businesses.

In a statement, a spokesperson wrote, “The administration has been laser-focused on getting people reconnected to employment as quickly as possible, and these efforts are paying off. Rhode Island’s economy is on the right track, with eight consecutive months of job gains and 20,100 jobs added in total.”

The spokesperson also touted McKee’s 401 Works initiative, which has since helped 11,000 Rhode Islanders return to work while still collecting partial unemployment payments.

The DLT has also helped unemployed Rhode Islanders find work through it’s Back to Work RI website.

“Especially now that federal unemployment benefits have ended, we are committed to helping all Rhode Islanders find their next job opportunity so that the Ocean State’s economy can make a complete and swift recovery,” the spokesperson continued.

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