Border closure hurts small businesses in McAllen, Texas

The help sought is an understatement in McAllen, Texas. As the economy rebounds from the pandemic, local businesses are struggling to find workers to meet demand.

“As a small business owner, I’m concerned about job creation,” says Eliza Garza, co-owner of Iced Cube Shaved Ice.

Garza and his business partner Margret Debruyn opened their store in November 2020. Today they operate three locations, with the intention of making their brand national in the coming weeks.

“It’s hard for me to find employees,” Garza says. “The great thing about this business is that it thrives with young teens who want to have a fun job for the summer. However, when it comes to finding senior executives, it’s hard to find people who want to work right now. “

Businesses across the country have expressed similar concerns. An extra $ 300 per week unemployment benefit has encouraged many to stay home, but now that is a thing of the past in Texas. Governor Greg Abbott has announced that his state will withdraw from all other federal unemployment benefits related to COVID effective June 26.

President Biden said on Thursday employers had to pay more to get workers to return.

“It’s an employee’s bargaining chip now, what’s happening. They’re gonna have to compete and start playing [sic] hard workers earn a living wage, ”Biden said.

President Joe Biden said employers need to start offering better wages to attract potential employees.
AFP via Getty Images

According to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), nearly 45% of posted jobs pay wages over $ 15.50 an hour. About 76% pay more than $ 11.50 an hour. Only 2% of posted jobs pay around the minimum wage.

“It was really a struggle, especially for the cooks. There isn’t enough for everyone, says George Castaneda, owner of Hacienda San Miguel Mexican Grill and Bar. ” I do not know what it is. I can’t quite put my finger on it. But before the pandemic, we had people knocking on our doors looking for work. Today there are not many people looking for a job, ”Castaneda says.

Newly elected McAllen mayor Javier Villalobos said another problem affecting small businesses is the continued closure of the southern border.

A “Commitment in Progress” sign is displayed in a FedEx.
“It’s hard for me to find employees,” said one McAllen business owner.
Getty Images

“Our bridges are closed. We have two Anzalduas bridges and we also have Hidalgo. So people can’t meet him because of COVID. Now what’s a little hard for us is figuring out how other people can get in and they’re allowed, but people crossing legally can’t. It affects our economy; it specifically affects our downtown area. This is where many Mexicans come to shop. So this affects us. Once it opens, we hope we’ll get back to where we were, ”says Villalobos.

The Department of Homeland Security announced on June 20 that the borders with Mexico and Canada would remain closed until at least July 21.