• Maya

5 Relief Funds for Restaurant Workers

COVID-19 has undoubtedly put a severe emotional, psychological and financial strain on the entire restaurant industry. While business owners continue to struggle with mass closures and unreliable streams of income, their workers face the similar if not worse burdens and concerns. The disenfranchised staff who once made these businesses possible now find themselves jobless and with very little avenue for bettering their position.

In response to this troubling dilemma, organizations founded to help hospitality industry workers have stepped up. Platforms that already offered monetary assistance have expanded their efforts, and others designed to help in other ways have started relief funds with service staff in mind. No matter what they do, every one of them is doing their part to help workers in need during the COVID-19 crisis.


The Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation traditionally handles labor concerns in the restaurant industry. They’ve since widened their focus; the RWCF COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund collects donations and splits them three ways: 50% goes directly to individual workers whose health or finances have been impacted by the pandemic, 25% goes to nonprofits dedicated to restaurant worker relief, and 25% function as zero-interest loans for businesses to help them get back up and running. The RWCF website also includes helpful links to donations, other resources and an FAQ for out-of-work individuals.

2. OFW

The One Fair Wage campaign is a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating the legality of paying tipped workers less than minimum wage. They fight wage theft, promote legislation they support and set up petitions to send to politicians. Since COVID-19 struck, they’ve launched multiple other initiatives, one of which their website self-describes as a conglomeration of “independent restaurants that provide food on a sliding scale to low-wage workers, health care workers, first responders, and others in need.” They also started the OFW Emergency Fund to provide financial aid to restaurant, delivery and other tipped workers in the food service industry. Their goal is to raise $213K—an unsubtle nod to the federal government’s $2.13/hr tipped minimum wage threshold.


UNITE HERE, a labor union, has 300K members across Canada and the United States. They represent people both in food service and other hospitality industries. Their UNITE HERE Education and Support Fund is the first thing that appears on their website and they have a specific, noticeable section dedicated to COVID-19 resources such as petitions, unemployment help, advice for people who worry they’ve contracted the virus and more. All donations they receive go directly to help workers pay for necessities like food, rent and utilities; cover their current health insurance if they’re laid off or get their hours reduced; make up for the wages they would normally receive from working and tips; and help them receive job training for when business picks up again as usual.

4. Spill The Dish

Unlike the others, Spill The Dish doesn’t provide direct financial aid. Instead, they’ve amassed a database of relief programs so people have a clearer, more direct way to find applicable resources. You can choose to filter your “target” to find pertinent information for workers, companies, or donors and other individuals looking to help out in their community. You can also narrow it down by city. Users have the opportunity to add new programs, donors and resources to the database so the site constantly grows and updates with the most relevant information out there. However, beware: Spill The Dish doesn’t screen what gets added to their system, so be careful before donating or giving out any personal information.

5. Seasoned Relief Project

Before this pandemic, Seasoned was a job search platform that also provided a nice community for service workers to connect with and talk to one another. To assist through this difficult time, they’ve begun offering $100 each to restaurant workers willing to share how the pandemic has impacted them. These stories are meant to inspire as well as raise awareness of how much this virus is affecting the restaurant industry. Seasoned set up a donation platform with a goal of $1M and are also looking to partner with relief funds so that they can continue to distribute money to the individuals sharing their stories.

Like many people around the world, restaurant workers feel the strain of high unemployment rates and financial instability as COVID-19 continues to render the future both unsure and unstable. Fortunately, these five relief funds are not alone in trying to help food service industry employees as well as workers in general. Visit these websites and find other local relief programs to learn how you can receive assistance or, if you’re able, help struggling out-of-work individuals in your community.

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