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Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

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DIAMONDHEAD, Miss. -- It’s literally a sign of the times: A huge banner outside the Burger King in Diamondhead, a community northeast of Bay St. Louis, advertising yearly bonuses of up to $6,000 for workers.

So difficult is it to find workers after Katrina (see our earlier report), that the operator of this franchise and others in Mississippi and the greater New Orleans area have resorted to signing bonuses to secure enough workers to operate.

Myrna Schultz, marketing vice president for franchise owner Strategic Restaurants Acquisition Corp., says the “recruiting and retention bonus” enabled the company to quickly reopen all but 12 of the 100 franchises it owns in the area.

Most of the 800 people hired since Katrina have qualified for the bonus, which is up to $6,000 for full-time workers and up to $3,000 for part-time workers who put in at least 20 hours a week. Workers, even pre-Katrina ones, get a piece of the bonus with each bi-weekly paycheck, Schultz says.

Schultz adds that the bonus was offered instead of boosting hourly pay, which is the state’s minimum wage of $5.50, because its goal is to retain workers longer.

There’s no stated deadline for the bonus to end, and Schultz notes that another 400 workers are needed to return the company's restaurants to pre-Katrina levels.

Tee McCovey, a district supervisor for the Mississippi Employment Department, says that other employers along the coast have been forced to adopt similar tactics in what she said is an “employee’s market.”

“It’s just like professional sports; you even have signing bonuses," she says.

Shultz allowed that her company might even have to up the ante if competition gets fiercer as other restaurants reopen.

“It’s supply and demand,” she says. “We might out of necessity.”

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249 COMMENTS

A job is a job (GET TO WORK)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But there are SOOOOOOO many people out of work and they are having to do this. It is time to start pulling what little fed money that some people are getting (help yourselves or the well runs dry)

I'd be curious to see how many folks collect they're bonuses!!! $6000 is a pretty fair amount (or $3000 for part-time) of money and I'm certain that they won't pay it out upfront. At the end of it all, I'll bet that there are only a few that collect the $6000.

Sorry,Guys--But I gotta side with William--I'm from the South but it's time for ya'll to get a little Southern Pride and quit sittin' back,depending on the 'government'--I know that I'm gonna catch some flak from this but it's time to get off the pity-potty and buck-up,move on--We've all been thru rough times--Look around--You can always find someone worse off-Be thankful for what you have and WORK to get back what you had before

Sad thing is, there will still be a bunch of deadbeats on the dole and a bunch of Liberals defending them! If there's work, there should be no Welfare, ADC, WIC, etc. Nobody owes you a living just because you can breed.

Another comment made in total ignorance of the total devastation these folks are experiencing. It's hard to get to work when your vehicle is gone, your house is gone and the bridge to the available jobs is out. And you are still in limbo with FEMA and your insurance company and having to spend most of your days trying to make them do right for you. But then AZ doesn't have these issues so I guess there is no way for you to comprehend. How lucky for you.

I wish people would read the WHOLE story before they comment with their arrogant responses to a situation they have no clue about. What part of 800 people have already applied and have been hired are you having a hard time understanding William Garber? When businesses rebuild and reopen and more will as time passes, more folks will be able to go back to work. Also, I have a question? Since some have insight to this so called FED MONEY. What FED MONEY? Somebody want to tell me about it so I get some of this government handouts that is supposedly flowing so freely? Everybody is talking about it but strange how it's not appearinig.

I agree there is money there for those to get out and work. Why should the fedral money keep coming in when people are using it and not helping themselves. My viewpoint is if someone can work then they can care for themselves. Not my tax dollars. I have seen the aftermath of emergencies as I work in that field. It is true that people lose a lot but when some has a housefire they get a little help. Then they get out and take the bull by the horns and move on.

Who should work for $5.50 an hour? Modern slavery.

Thats the problem with this world today! You complain of not having money and being poor, but you turn down the jobs that are on your table. No education, no high paying job, the end. Take what you can get and get it done.

Related to jobs in Katrina area --- are there healthier ways to get food to the surrounding areas? We clearly understand that with rebuilding and construction that workers will need to eat, and eat conveniently at low prices -- but what about the health?

Some people that have started out working with the fast food service industry have gotten great training. Don't let anyone tell you that it isn't a good place to work. You find a wonderful situation where you find yourself. If you don't grab the the present when it presents itself you will find yourself WITHOUT. Start anywhere, start somewhere but just get back on your feet. The things you are now getting for free will go away, be one of the people that find a new and wonderful life. "Get me through December where I can start again - leave your tracks in the snow".

Actually, William, it is the other way around. Right now there are too many jobs and not enough people, mainly because FEMA is paying so well that there aren't enough people for "regular" jobs. Plus there are many people that haven't returned as of yet and many who still can't get to a job due to transportation problems (as in lack thereof). So, why don't you come stay down here with us for a while before making statements from your cushy home in AZ!

I think a bump above the pultry minimum wage of 5.50 an hour in addition to that bonus would keep people working. People want a decent wage, not a one time teaser!

HGoodwin New Rochelle, NY

For William-

My workplace is not a quarter-mile from the Burger King in this article. Fortunately for me and my family, I was able to return to my job within two days after Katrina. The Diamondhead area for the most part is an affluent retirement community, along with well paid young professionals employed by the Stennis Space Center or one of the casinos that have given our beautiful Gulf Coast so many jobs. Your statement to "get to work" is exactly why the Burger King in Diamondhead has to offer an enticement to attract employees.

The older retirees aren't interested in a fast food job, and the other residents don't need it. The people that you feel are out of work and not responding don't have the ability to get there. The closest community is Pass Christian, MS, which had a total of about 6500 residents before the storm. As of this week, there are 1500 people that have been able to return to the city, many of them housed in FEMA trailers on their property as they try to rebuild their homes and lives. Most have nothing left but the slabs of their houses, and I'm sure that if their jobs are still existing, they're reporting to work every day, and filling all of their free time with replacing sheetrock, clearing off trees, shingleing roofs, and fighting with their insurance adjusters. It's a matter of supply and demand. The supply of workers needed just isn't existent. There is not a large pool of teenagers in the area, and those older are either back to their regular jobs or making ends meet by taking higher paying construction (or re-construction) work.

We are not New Orleans here. Although we are in close proximity (50 or so miles), I'm proud to say that these are some of the most hard-working, resilient Americans that anyone will ever come across.

The well won't ever run dry on the spirit of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Please don't lump us in with anyone looking for a government handout. All that we're looking for is a hand to get back to some sense of normalcy. And we thank so many Americans that have done that.

Special thanks to everyone that has contributed to the relief efforts. The Red Cross, church groups, our firemen and policemen from all over the country, the National Guard, and yes, even FEMA (which has gotten a lot of undeserved press)- all who have sent their aid or prayers. We all will never forget it.

I'm not in "Katrina" land but I take great offense to the sentiment behind your comment, Mr. Garber. It implies that those of us without jobs are being lazy and intend to stay that way. I have struggled for over two years to find (and keep) a full-time job after recovering from an on-the-job injury and I have been stumbling over more roadblocks than debris left over from Katrina. The majority of people out there, even in hurricane land, would rather be working and productive than taking handouts from others. We the taxpayers are paying for these "wells", as you put them, and the ones getting to drink from those wells are also the ones who's taxes created those wells! I suggest you show more tact and compassion, or keep inflammatory comments to yourself. Please. For the sanity of those who must struggle.

My son lives in one of the hardest hit areas in Mississippi and the hype that people are unwilling to work is garbage. Fed money? Try state money for the unemployed. These people are trying to get their homes fit to live in. You really need somewhere to live to be able to work. Things must be great in Tuscon, Arizona.

the feds worst mistake was to give all that money out it gave most a free ride now there are no one who wants to work

Wow! $5.50 an hour would feed a family of dogs! This is great! Thank god for negros and mexicans! They'll work for that much!

Mr. Garber has no clue! I'm from an area in South Louisiana that was thankfully spared by the hurricanes. I still have my job, my home, my car, etc. It's not so easy getting a job when you don't have those things. The areas that are looking for people to work are the same areas that cannot provide basic necessities, like housing, to employees.

I am amazed that there is a shortage of people applying for these positions in view of the levels of poverty and unemployment in this area. There ought to be a line of applicants outside! The question remains: Are people simply not returning to the area? Or are they getting so many hand-outs that they don't feel the need to get a job?

I am so tried of the folks who are waiting on the government to help...get off you're asses and work!!!

On one hand employers are handing out very large signing bonuses in the service industry; a practice unknown of prior to Katrina. And on the other, there are thousands of able bodied people sitting and waiting for their government handout. What's wrong with this picture? WORK!

I would hope that franchise fast food joint never find any employees. These type of businesses are detrimental to the health of people and only serve to drive up healthcare cost. The impact of fast food is always negative.

The problems is not federal money, the problem is that the people who usually took these job are the people who lived in substandard housing and seldom owned their own homes. They have left and have no reason to return. The people with better jobs are working... at their old jobs.

I can empathize with the frustration of waiting for the gov to come through but sometimes we just have to pick up the pieces that we can, move on and do what we have to do to survive. Good going Burger King! $5.50 an hour????? Come on....the state needs to REALLY look at that!

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