NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Despite weekly unemployment claims being better than expected, 1.5 million more Americans applied for benefits last week.

It’s a sign that many businesses are still struggling to stay afloat, CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis reported Thursday.

Fredy Mendoza has worked at Harvest Kitchen on the Upper West Side for nine years.

“Literally my everything. This is what pays for my school. This is what pays for my family’s meals,” Mendoza said.

It’s a job he was fortunate to keep during the coronavirus  pandemic, despite the restaurant taking a hit.

“We’re making like 10-20% of what we used to make,” Mendoza said.

DID YOU LOSE YOUR JOB AMID THE OUTBREAK?

Jeremy Wladis owns Harvest Kitchen and two restaurants in the city and a total of 10 across the country. He said he was forced to lay off more than 70 people at his Big Apple establishments.

“It has been so difficult the last several months,” Wladis said.

In order to hopefully bring back staff, he is among those pushing for the city to close streets for outdoor seating.

“Which will help out so many small businesses, not just restaurants but retail businesses. That’s the only hope and shot we have for survival in the future,” Wladis said.

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Even with some signs of the economy slowly recovering — for example, New York City reaching Phase 1 of reopening on Monday, sending more people back to work — another 1.5 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week.

That marked the 10th straight weekly decline in applications since they peaked at the height of the pandemic.

“We are seeing some signs that the worst of the economic decline or contraction is behind us, but we’re reminded also that all this is tied to the behavior of the virus and the disease,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate.com.

WHAT IF YOU OWN A SMALL BUSINESS AND NEED HELP?

Hamrick said the future of the economy will depend on COVID-19 spikes, and how people react. His group conducted a survey about a month ago and found:

“There’s a great amount of reticence on the part of consumers in terms of engaging back in public as they would have before, and then there’s the financial damage that has occurred. Their ability to spend has been hurt,” Hamrick said.

But, a good sign for Mendoza and his restaurant is, “Every day they come by and ask me are we ready to open? Are we ready to seat?”

He’s hoping the answer will be yes, soon.

Those on unemployment are getting an additional $600 a week from the federal government, which if lawmakers fail to act on will end July 31.

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