The North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association (NCRLA), the trade association behind NC’s $23.5 billion hospitality industry, has launched a relief fund to provide fast access to cash for restaurant and hotel workers immediately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The NC Restaurant Workers Relief Fund will support any of the tens of thousands of restaurant and hotel employees now facing significant financial hardship as North Carolina businesses curtail services in efforts to encourage social distancing and slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The goal of the NC Restaurant Workers Relief Fund is to provide qualified applicants with $500 to help with the immediate expenses faced by many who have suddenly found themselves without work.
“Within a matter of days, we have seen the majority of workers in the hospitality industry laid off, furloughed or completely sidelined,” says Steve Thanhauser, NCRLA chair and co-owner of Raleigh’s famed Angus Barn Steakhouse. “These are the people responsible for shaping our best experiences at our favorite restaurants, bars and hotels. While we are all facing an uncertain financial future, these workers are living a harsh new reality immediately. It’s our duty to show them how much we value their work and wellbeing by doing what we can to help them out.”
The NC Restaurant Workers Relief Fund will be run through the NCRLA Foundation, the association’s long-standing nonprofit arm which has provided financial assistance to hospitality employees and students for more than a decade. Created in response to the overwhelming number of applications to localized relief efforts popping up across the state, organizers behind the new fund hope that a consolidated effort will enable those affected to more easily access the financial help they need. It also welcomes employees from all facets of the hospitality industry to apply, including those working in bars and hotels. NCRLA’s track record for advocacy in the industry has also created opportunities for donors to join the effort, showing their unwavering support to those in need.
The Triangle Restaurant Workers Relief Fund, organized by Raleigh-based chef and restaurateur Ashley Christensen, will find a home within this new, larger fund, as well. Christensen worked with the Frankie Lemmon Foundation, a local educational nonprofit, to quickly create a place for people to donate as restaurants began to close their dining rooms and communities rallied in support of their favorite places. Within days of its launch, the influx of applications from those seeking financial help quickly topped 4,000. Donations initially submitted through the Triangle fund will be disbursed among those original applicants in the Triangle area.
“So many people reached out to ask how they could help, so we called on our community to help us get the fund off the ground quickly,” adds Christensen. “The goal was always for industry leaders to unify these efforts to make it as simple as possible for people to donate and as efficient as possible for people to receive the assistance they need. The need of workers who have immediately been laid off is so significant, and we have to stand together to get through this.”
The NC Restaurant Workers Relief Fund is now open for any NC-based hospitality employees experiencing significant financial hardship related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each applicant will be eligible to receive up to $500 in assistance, and determinations for the awards will be based on the level of demonstrated need, the number of years worked in the hospitality industry, and employer’s verification. Applications will be reviewed and with a goal of awarding funds to qualified recipients as soon as possible.
“We want to show compassion and give help to those people who have taken care of us so many times,” says Michele Stone, president of The Stone Agency, the strategic marketing firm which partnered with NCRLA to bring forth the statewide effort. “These are the people who are hurting the most in the early stages of this crisis. Together we are doing our best to serve those who have served us when they need it most.”