The pandemic sparks national labor and volunteer shortages


Kelly Haggerty '23

Restaurants and businesses are experiencing staff shortages as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Widespread labor shortages in the United States arose after the COVID-19 pandemic.  This past summer, there was a surplus of job openings and a shortage of available employees, according to  In addition to a lack of employees, there was also a decrease in volunteers at homeless shelters as a result of COVID-19 regulations.  Sacred Heart Greenwich partners with the Society of St. Paul (SSVP), The New Covenant Center located in Stamford, Connecticut, and Saint Adalbert Church in the South Bronx.  Mrs. Pat Walsh, a member of the SSVP, volunteers at small shelters in Manhattan and the Bronx and experienced first-hand the effects of the pandemic on these organizations.     

The United States transportation, communication, and public utility departments are facing staff shortages.  Courtesy of

The three main causes of the labor shortage are public health concerns, national uncertainty during unprecedented times, and Americans reconsidering their return to work, according to   COVID-19 made searching for jobs difficult and sparked concerns among current employees about contracting the coronavirus at work.  The new Delta variant furthered unemployment as it posed a renewed risk of infection.  The coronavirus pandemic had a multifaceted effect on labor shortages as employees could either become infected with COVID-19 or miss work when caring for sick family members. 

In light of these shortages, employers are cutting store hours and offering employees a $600 retention bonus, according to  These responses to the labor crisis created newfound confidence in workers, causing employees to have an “upper hand.”  Prior to the labor crisis, workers who wanted an increase in benefits and wages did not feel confident in asking for them.  Now, employees are using the opportunity of low employment to bargain with their employers for these advances, according to

As a response to the pandemic, the United States Congress passed COVID-19 relief bills that granted unemployed workers an additional $600 in weekly benefits, which eventually decreased to $300 weekly, according to   Twenty-six states ended the unemployment benefits before September 6 which was the scheduled end date.  Economists argue that the relief bills are an economic lifeline for Americans experiencing unemployment.  Most unemployed Americans want to go back to work but restrictions, such as access to child care or fear of contracting the coronavirus, hold them back, according to

After the coronavirus pandemic, volunteer numbers began to decrease as well, including in homeless shelters that Sacred Heart supports.  The New Covenant Center and Saint Adalbert Church suffered a decrease in volunteers after they reduced opportunities in compliance with COVID-19 safety protocols. People are also hesitant to volunteer because of health risks.

Members of The Society of St. Paul volunteer and manage small shelters in the Bronx and Manhattan. Courtesy of Ms. Eileen Miller

During the pandemic, The SSVP tried to remain open by only permitting society members to volunteer.  Normally, those who are not members of the society are able to help but are now unable to due to safety concerns for the clients and volunteers. Mrs. Walsh explained the SSVP’s current efforts to increase the number of volunteers.

“As we are coming out of the pandemic, we are permitting more volunteers and in order to recruit volunteers are partnering with local churches,” Mrs. Walsh said. “We have seen a marked interest in volunteers since the vaccines became widely available.”

Mrs. Kerry Bader, Upper School Theology Teacher and Director of Community Service, also discussed how shelters are attempting to raise volunteer participation.

“Now that COVID-19 has subsided and the vaccine is widely available, homeless shelters and other service organizations are reconnecting with their partner organizations to explain their vaccine policy and to provide reassurance that volunteering will be safe for both the volunteers and the population being served,” Mrs. Bader said.

Featured image by Kelly Haggerty ’23