This week in Homebase news, a study finds that Google reviews impact a business the most, the NRAEF wins funding to prepare inmates for food service jobs, and Minnesota passes a law guaranteeing paid sick leave. Read below to find out more on these stories and other happenings involving local businesses and hourly workers.

Study: Bad Google Reviews Worse than Yelp, Facebook

A recent study conducted by marketing and CRM software provider Womply provided the first comprehensive look at online review patterns and revenue for small businesses in America. 

The Impact of Online Reviews on Small Business Revenue found that small businesses are more damaged by bad ratings on Google than they are by poor reviews on Facebook or Yelp. According to the study, businesses with an average Google star rating of 1 to 1.5 generate 33% less revenue on average annually than the average business. 

Businesses with the same rating on Yelp or Facebook generate 19% and 9% less yearly revenue than the average business, respectively. 

Restaurant Industry Wins Grant to Prep Inmates for Jobs

The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation secured a $4.5 million grant to help released prison inmates transition into jobs in the food service industry

The organization will use the funding to develop training and job placement programs for young people who have been in prison. The initiative, which will begin providing the training during participating inmates’ incarcerations, was dubbed HOPES, or Hospitality Opportunities for People Entering Society. 

“We are honored to be part of a national effort to create positive employment opportunities for young adults involved with the justice system,” NRAEF president Rob Gifford said. “The program fits perfectly with our mission to attract, empower and advance today’s and tomorrow’s restaurant workforce and is an excellent way for anyone seeking to get back on track to becoming a productive and responsible member of society.”

New Rule Makes it Easier for Small Businesses to Offer Retirement Plans

The Department of Labor established a rule on Monday that makes it easier for small businesses to offer 401(k) plans to their employees in the form of Association Retirement Plans.

The ARPs can be offered by employer associations in a city, county, state, multi-state metropolitan area or in a nationwide industry, or can be sponsored through a Professional Employer Organization.

“Many small businesses would like to offer retirement benefits for their employees, but are discouraged by the cost and complexity of running their own plans,” Acting Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella said. “Association Retirement Plans offer valuable retirement security to small businesses’ employees through their retirement years.”

Minnesota Law Makes Wage Theft a Felony

Minnesota lawmakers approved legislation that they say is America’s strongest set of protections against wage theft. 

The law makes it a felony to hold back an employee’s wages and also doubles the amount of investigators who will enforce compliance by looking into wage-theft violations. Officials estimate that around $12 million in unpaid wages is missed by around 39,000 Minnesotans annually. 

“This is the same thing as if they walked in and took the money from you,” Gov. Tim Walz said. “It’s insidious in that it undermines our faith in the system.”

Labor Commissioner Nancy Leppink said as many as eight new investigators will be added to her agency, and said the additions would be a good “down payment” towards the fight against wage theft.