Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, an advocacy and action nonprofit founded in 2018 by and for restaurant workers, set up its Restaurant Workers COVID19 Crisis Relief Fund on Sunday, March 15, just as governors across the United States were publicly contemplating forced shut-downs of the hospitality industry. Today, RWCF announced its first 5-day total from “small dollar” individual donations through its website totaling over $80,000 (This figure does not include the hundreds of thousands of dollars of corporate and major donor commitments currently being arranged). 

As of March 19 at 1:30 p.m. EST, there were over 800 donations through the site, which ranged from $1 to $5,000 (about 63% were $50 or less). RWCF will provide regular updates on donations and distribution figures on its Crisis Relief Fund page

RWCF’s board of directors voted to allocate all funds raised for the Relief Fund to be allocated in the following ways: 

50% FOR IMMEDIATE, DIRECT CRISIS RELIEF ASSISTANCE TO INDIVIDUAL RESTAURANT WORKERS. RWCF has deep connections in the restaurant community, but we don’t have the existing technological apparatus or manpower to review thousands of applications, verify needs and ensure distributions to individuals are spent as promised. (RWCF has already received approximately 5,000 emails from workers requesting for help). That’s why we’re partnering with SOUTHERN SMOKE FOUNDATION to distribute our direct assistance funds. 

Southern Smoke is a nonprofit 501c3 crisis relief foundation based out of Houston that exists to do just that. It was created by James Beard Award-winning Chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly Hospitality and Lindsey Brown of Lindsey Brown Public Relations to raise funds for charitable purposes, principally for support and assistance for those in the food and beverage community and their suppliers during times of crisis. Southern Smoke has to date donated more than $1.6 million—both directly to people in need via the Emergency Relief Fund and to organizations that represent the needs of people in our industry. 

INDIVIDUALS seeking RWCF’s direct assistance should go to the Southern Smoke Application Form to submit their information and needs. Please note that Southern Smoke will evaluate each case based on the state of an applicant’s emergency, prioritizing issues like medical needs.

Yesterday, RWCF advanced Southern Smoke Foundation $15,000 dollars from its existing cash on hand to beef up its capacity to distribute funds quickly, and RWCF has committed to assessing donation commitments to the Crisis Relief Fund every seven days and transferring the appropriate amount to SSF in a timely manner. 

25% FOR NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS SERVING RESTAURANT WORKERS IN CRISIS. RWCF has a strong and growing roster of nonprofit partners who already provide services to restaurant workers, including access to mental health services, immigrant services, support for women in the industry, workforce retraining, etc. RWCF grantees such as Restaurant After Hours, Hot Bread Kitchen, and Emma’s Torch are well positioned to directly help restaurant workers. During this period, we will seek out additional nonprofits that are well-positioned to provide restaurant workers healthcare, food, rental assistance, transportation and other vital emergency provisions.

25% FOR ZERO-INTEREST LOANS FOR RESTAURANTS TO GET BACK UP AND RUNNING. Prior to this crisis, RWCF was growing a Program-Related Investments (PRIs) plan to give below-market-rate loans to businesses that pledge to operate in accordance to core worker-friendly principles, but now, with the crisis threatening the entire industry, we will use a portion of our crisis fund dollars to help small businesses get up and running again when they can. There are many weeks before restaurants will be allowed to reopen, so RWCF leaders will take this time to develop a set of criteria for determining what principles businesses will need to adhere to in order to be eligible.  More information on the criteria and instructions on how businesses can apply will be published on our website as it becomes available. Individuals representing small businesses seeking loans should sign up for our newsletter to stay informed.

RWCF is committed to reporting at regular intervals on our website the dollars raised and distributed for the Restaurant Workers’ COVID19 Crisis Relief Fund. The proportions outlined above may change as conditions on the ground evolve. We are committed to operating the Crisis Relief Fund with full transparency and frequent public reporting throughout the process.

Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation is America’s first nonprofit using the community foundation model to support people in a particular labor segment. By addressing quality-of-life issues that disproportionately affect restaurant workers – 40% of whom live on poverty-level wages – RWCF is dedicated to strengthening the workforce and increasing opportunities for advancement in the industry to more people. The restaurant industry is notorious for low wages, poor job mobility, high turnover, and burnout. Structural and cultural issues within the industry decrease quality-of-life and make long term work in the industry unsustainable for many. 

Industry News, Philanthropy