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Restaurant Worker Funds Launched To Help Those Shut Out By Coronavirus

Update: Boston launched a website listing city restaurants that are open and accepting delivery or takeout orders, and those who are offering gift cards for purchase. 

A fund to help Boston area restaurant workers suddenly out of a job because of the coronavirus could get some help from a new fund.

The Restaurant Strong Fund launched Wednesday and aims to provide $1,000 grants to full-time restaurant workers who lost their jobs.

It was seeded by a $100,000 donation from Sam Adams' founder Jim Koch, who committed to matching up to $100,000 in donations.

Koch said hourly workers are especially hard hit by the abrupt closure of restaurants and bars across the state. Many closed after Gov. Charlie Baker this week banned eating and drinking in bars and restaurants to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The ban is supposed to last until at least April 6.

“Hourly people, the tipped people, the busboys, the servers, the bartenders, the waiters and waitresses that work in bars and restaurants [are] all of sudden over the weekend ... out of a job,” Koch said.

“Those are the most seriously impacted people that we want to reach out to and help," he continued.

Koch said the move is in part his way of giving back to the bars and restaurants that gave his beer a chance when he founded his brewery in the 1980s.

“I always felt if I had a chance to help them, maybe down the road, I would want to do that,” he said.

Area chefs, including Ming Tsai of Blue Dragon, Ken Oringer of Little Donkey and Chris Coombs of Boston Chops, are also supporting the fund.

Koch said he intends for workers to start receiving funds this week.

“The neediest people among us often don't have the luxury of time. They're right at the edge,” he said. "And if they can get $1,000 check, that can make a huge difference, especially if it comes right at that critical moment of need.”

Another fund, from the One Fair Wage Campaign, also launched this week to provide emergency cash assistance to support tipped and service workers nationwide.

The goal, One Fair Wage President Saru Jayaraman said in a statement, is "to give as many workers as possible cash assistance of $213." Jayaraman said that amount is "a nod to the horrific $2.13 federal sub-minimum wage for tipped workers."

The campaign, which advocates eliminating sub-minimum wages for tipped workers, is arguing that unemployment insurance is insufficient for workers who derive much of their income from tips.

The Boston POS software company Toast created another restaurant relief plan. It includes ways to engage with a new movement called Rally For Restaurants, which is a directory that makes it easy for patrons to purchase gift cards from their favorite local restaurants. The company also announced it will match up to $250,000 through its website, and they're urging customers to challenge five friends to join in via social media with the hashtag #RallyforRestaurants. Toast is also eliminating software fees for restaurants that use its software.

Individual bars, restaurants and music clubs are also starting their own fundraising campaigns, including Great Scott in Allston, which raised nearly $10,000 in one day.

Koch says the only way to save neighborhood favorites is to remember everyone is part of a community.

“Everything we do either affects people positively or negatively,” he said, “and we wanted to reach out positively.”

Koch hopes the rest of the food and beer lovers will do the same. Instead of dropping $20 on a few pints out, he said, “kick in 20 bucks to the fund to help the people that used to pour you those beers.”

Information from State House News Service was used in this report. 

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Andrea Shea is WBUR's arts reporter.

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