CHICAGO (CBS) —  As the Chicago area reopens after being shut down for months, you would think this would be a much better time for businesses.

But one owner tells us she doesn’t have any employees.

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CBS 2’s Jim Williams is Working For Chicago and explains why some workers are reluctant to return to their jobs.

Mellany Thomas has reopened her Mascara Lash Company and said her clients want to return. But here’s the problem:

“Before the pandemic started, we had a full staff. We started with about five full time employees,” Thomas said. “Up until today, none of my staff have come back.”

Not one of Thomas’ employees will come back to the Oak Park salon. She is trying to hang on, but it’s stressful.

“The strain that it’s put on business is enormous. Because I have very limited availability for clients. We can’t see as many people, so we’re losing money pretty much,” Thomas said.

Her employees site child care fears amid the pandemic as the main reason they’re not back on the job.

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But Andy Challenger of the staffing firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas points to another factor that might explain why some employees across the country are not eager to return to their jobs: A recent University of Chicago study that found two-thirds of workers who are eligible for unemployment benefits can get more money from the government than they made at work.

“I think people have legitimate reason to be fearful to go back to jobs,” Challenger said.

One-fifth of workers the University of Chicago study estimates can receive benefits that at least double their job wages.

“It’s still is unsafe to some degree to go back to work. There are some employees that don’t feel safe doing that and there’s also a safer alternative which is staying on unemployment which is enhanced during this period,” Challenger said.

So at Thomas’ salon, the “help wanted” sign is out.

“I would like to see a full staff at my salon at some point,” Thomas said. “And I would like to see our clients being able to book and appointment and be able to get the appointment.”

Thomas’ salon did get a grant from the COVID-19 African American Relief Fund, but that was short term help. Long term, she needs workers. And she’s accepting applications.

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