NEWBURY PARK (CBSLA) — A Ventura County restaurant owner said he is having a hard time getting back to business because nearly half of his staff doesn’t want to return to work.

Last Friday, Chef Giorgio Pierangeli scrambled to open his restaurant The Local Table in Newbury Park after Ventura County allowed dine-in service.

“Finally when we realized that we could open, we were like ‘OK we need to get started,'” he said.

In the days leading up to the reopening, Pierangeli said he wasn’t hearing back from his employees.

“I was surprised that out of the big group text only one or two people responded, ‘I’m ready anytime, let me know,'” Pierangeli said.

Ultimately, of his 50 employees, Pierangeli said only about half agreed to come back to work.

“Some people seem to have valid reasons like, ‘I don’t want to come and expose myself, I have my parents, they’re older at home. I don’t want to come back and put them at risk,” he said.

Pierangeli said he assured them that both workers and customers would wear masks, and have their temperatures taken before they could enter.

He also said he is only operating at half the capacity to practice social distancing but said others still did not want to work no matter what he did to ensure their safety.

“Some other people, they were saying they were making more money on unemployment than when they were working,” Pierangeli said.

Because of the Federal CARES Act, unemployed workers in California can receive up to $450 a week from the state and an additional $600 a week from the federal government. However, the extra $600 only lasts through the end of July.

Pierangeli said his servers make about $150 to $200 per shift, including tips, so if they work four days a week, they can make more on unemployment.

“It’s great to get as much money as possible from any entities, but I didn’t quite understand how they were paid more than what they would normally earn just by staying home,” he said.

Pierangeli was able to pull workers from his two other restaurants in Sherman Oaks and Brentwood and bring them to the Newbury Park location, but he worries he won’t have enough manpower once Los Angeles County reopens.

“Without them, we won’t be able to operate, so it’s definitely a challenge,” he said.

In California, a general fear of exposure isn’t enough to refuse work and continue to collect unemployment.

You could lose your benefits if you can’t prove that you’re in an elevated risk category like being over 65 or immune-compromised.

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