By Kayla Anderson
Sparks businesses are still feeling the effects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as more residents test positive and continue to spread the disease.
Large companies that rely on tourism and large events (like casinos) are also at risk as they continue to operate at lesser capacity and don’t have as many people dining, sleeping, and/or recreating at their resorts.
Late last week it was disclosed in a letter sent to the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation that the Nugget Casino Resort plans on permanently laying off 154 employees, which includes cooks, restaurant servers, stewards and others.
Sparks casinos like the Nugget were able to reopen in early June, offering lodging at 50 percent capacity and rearranging the casino floor to allow for proper social distancing. At many Northern Nevada casinos, temperature checks are taken at the entrances, more rigorous cleaning methods are in place, and sanitizing fog machines are regularly killing germs in between shifts at restaurants and after people check out of their rooms.
Throughout the last 6-8 months though, national, regional, and citywide messaging from health officials has been that staying home is the best method for combatting Covid-19. Many people- especially those in sensitive categories- are taking that to heart.
The Nugget could not be reached for comment, however, the letter stated that the employee layoffs affect less than 33 percent of its workforce which does not infringe on protections in place via the WARN Act. The WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) Act of 1988 is a national labor law that requires companies with 100 or more employees to provide 60-day advance notice of a mass layoff. The Nugget’s layoff is effective November 15.
In late August, Nevada governor Steve Sisolak approved an additional $300 per week extension on unemployment benefits for those who were making $100 or more a week from their workplace. Sisolak stated that that while he was grateful for the extra federal assistance, a lot more money was necessary to help those in need. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nevada’s unemployment rate was 6.9 percent in March 2020 then jumped up to 30.1 percent in April when the global shutdown occurred. Since then the unemployment rate has been trickling down yet has stayed around 13 percent. Washoe County has fared better than Las Vegas due to its more diverse economy, as industries such as the real estate sector soars.
Along with coronavirus causing big businesses to lay employees off, the State of Nevada also fines those that are noncompliant with required Covid-19 safety measures. In August, a few of Nevada’s big box grocery and home improvement stores were hit with fines that ranged from $2,500-$5,000; in early September, three more businesses in Reno/Sparks/Dayton had to pay fines, including a convenience store in Sparks. For information about the health mandates for Washoe County businesses during the Covid-19 era, visit https://covid19washoe.com/businesses/.
Of the 154 layoffs at the Nugget, 17 of those are dealers and 15 are cooks.