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Fund aims to give $500 grants to out-of-work restaurant employees

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Those in the hospitality industry whose lives have been turned upside down by the virus pandemic can seek a bit of relief from a new program announced Monday by the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association Educational Foundation. 

Workers who were employed in bars, hotels and restaurants as of March 10 should apply for funds at mrlaef.org/relief-fund. Grants in the amount of $500 will be awarded until funds are depleted, according to the MRLAEF. 

Beverly Hills Penn Station East Coast Subs workers Jason Wiliams and Mia Zarka work in an empty dining room as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issues a "Stay Home, Stay Safe" executive order during a television appearance, Monday, March 23, 2020.   The Beverly Hills restaurant has seen a 50% drop in business they said.

Workers must provide proof that they were let go or furloughed in the wake of Governor Gretchen Whitmer declaring a state of emergency in Michigan last month. The application also asks for copies of any bills that need to be paid. 

The nonprofit organization is accepting personal and corporate donations. Founding donors include groups that work in tandem with Michigan's hospitality industry including the Musser Family, Great Lakes Wine & Spirits, KSL Capital Partners + Grand Hotel, Imperial Beverage, Republic National Distributing Company and Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association itself will match donations up to $100,000.

“The hospitality industry has been upended by the pandemic with more than half of the 600,000 hospitality workers in Michigan expected to temporarily lose their jobs,” said MRLA president and CEO Justin Winslow in a press release. “The professionals who dedicate themselves each day to improving ours through excellent service and world-class hospitality don’t deserve this outcome. We are all in this fight together and have committed to match dollar for dollar the first $100,000 in contributions made to the Michigan Hospitality Industry Employee Relief Fund.”

Aron Flowers removes condiment containers from the dining area at Bucharest Grill on Piquette Street in Detroit on Monday, March 16, 2020.  Like other restaurants in Michigan, Bucharest Grill is closing their dine-in area but is still providing take out orders.

The media blast sent out by the MRLA today also reminded restaurant employees they can apply for monetary assistance through the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation Relief Fund at rerf.us.

mbaetens@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @melodybaetens