As hospitality, restaurant and retail workers were laid off at the beginning of the pandemic, many in the long-term care industry had high hopes that the newly unemployed might help fill desperately needed positions. The reality, however, seems to be an even greater gap in filling shifts as many certified nursing assistants opt for unemployment benefits during the pandemic, according to an NPR piece Saturday

The media organization reported that many certified nursing assistants, some of whom stopped working to take care of children at home, are relying on state unemployment benefits as well as an additional $600 a week through the federal government’s  Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Often, the article noted, individuals end up making more money by not working.

Nurse staffing agency IntelyCare, which operates in 14 states and helps long-term care facilities fill their empty shifts, reported to NPR that about 30% of its CNAs are choosing to take unemployment during the pandemic.

“Without them, you’ve got administrators, cafeteria workers, you’ve got all sorts of nurses performing the CNA duties,” David Coppins, CEO of IntelyCare, told NPR. “And then you just have people that aren’t getting attention because there’s just not enough people working.”

IntelyCare added that before the pandemic, the agency found workers for about 80% of the shifts that long-term care facilities asked for help in filling. Now, it’s having a tough time filling 50%.

Some facilities have opted to offer staff bonuses or “hero” pay during the pandemic, but that’s not a realistic option for all facilities. Industry groups also increasingly have called on the government to supplement the wages of nurses and CNAs, with little success.

Congress also still is debating whether to extend the extra $600 a week unemployment benefit beyond the end of July. And some states, such as Ohio, are ending unemployment benefits for those who refuse to return to work, although some exceptions are made.