(CBS DETROIT) – In response to labor shortages affecting local employers across a variety of industries, proposals from Congress and in the Michigan state house would pay people extra money to go back to work.

WSBT 22’s Selina Guevara looked into other barriers that keep people from going back to work.

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An economics PhD that Guevara spoke to told her that while money is a factor, the pandemic has caused Americans to redefine what it means to work.

And he says if employers are having a hard time finding people, they should look at softer benefits like flexibility, time off, and working from home options.

After a year of working from home in a pandemic economics, professor Micah Pollak says it’s permanently changed the way we work.

“If you are a restaurant or a retail store and you were expecting to just be able to offer the same job at the same salary in the same conditions as a year and a half ago and get applicants, then that’s just not gonna happen because people are looking for different things,” said Economics PHD, IU Northwest Micah Pollak.

He says gig economy jobs like working for Uber or Doordash are now much more attractive than they were before, creating more competition for workers.

He also says even if employers think they are creating a safe environment for their workers, their employees and customers may not agree.

“I ask are you giving them hazard pay because you might be putting them in an environment where they feel unsafe,” he said.

He says childcare can be another big burden for people going back to work.

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Companies like Michigan Works try to remove other barriers to employment, noting transportation as one of the biggest ones.

They have about 1800 jobs on their website weekly and frequently hold virtual hiring fairs.

“Where every job seeker is guaranteed a phone interview,” said Lily Brewer, executive director of Michigan Works!

But Brewer says the amount of people who actually use their service is unfortunately not as much as they would like.

They offer access to education for people to learn about new careers but are seeing frustration even with entry-level jobs.

She says many employers are saying they need someone who knows the basics, shows up to work on time, does their work, and is dependable and reliable.

And while many employers have told them expanded unemployment is a problem, Pollak believes that in the long term it can make the workforce larger.

“If you have that unemployment insurance it gives you a cushion that gives you some time to be able to go out and search for jobs otherwise you might just drop out of the labor force and just stay at home full-time for your kids or your family because it’s difficult to go out and get another job,” said Pollack.

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