Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund Debuts
NEW ORLEANS – From a press release:
United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA), Entergy Corporation and the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation (LHF) Thursday announced the creation of the Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund to provide crisis grants to hospitality workers who are unable to afford basic financial needs during the COVID-19 outbreak.
UWSELA and Entergy are committing $250,000 and $200,000, respectively, to stand up the fund and are actively recruiting donations, along with LHF, from business and industry, foundations, and the public. Local community, bank – Fidelity Bank responded to the call, pledging the first gift of $25,000, and will join the effort in challenging its fellow banks to contribute.
The fund will award one-time emergency grants up to $500 to eligible employees to provide temporary assistance to cover items included in the ALICE® (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) household survival budget, including essentials like housing, child care, food, transportation, and health care. Applications will go live on Saturday, March 21.
“We know there is an urgent need to respond to the financial struggles of hospitality workers across Southeast Louisiana based on the overwhelming requests for help we’ve already received,” said Jennifer Kelley, LHF executive director. “And while we recognize we won’t be able to provide assistance to everyone, we hope these grants will provide some relief to industry professionals while we work to develop additional funds and strategies.”
A 2018 JFF labor market snapshot reported over 72,000 individuals are employed by the hospitality and tourism industry, which accounts for about 12 percent of all workers in the region. And while this industry supports an array of income levels, a large majority of the positions pay low wages and do not routinely provide access to paid sick leave.
Cash-strapped households, commonly referred to as ALICE households, are often forced to make difficult decisions, like choosing between filling a prescription or buying groceries. These short-term decisions – multiplied during a crisis of this scale – have long-term consequences not only for the individuals but for the entire community.
“Entergy’s commitment to the Hospitality Cares fund is a commitment to the collective future of Southeast Louisiana because what we do to help ALICE workers through this crisis stands to benefit us all,” said David Ellis, Entergy New Orleans president and CEO. “Entergy is dedicated to helping protect the most vulnerable of our citizens during this pandemic.”
“There is a large segment of our population standing on the brink of financial ruin, and our community has an opportunity to stand up today and show good hospitality to an industry that provides it to us year-round,” said Michael Williamson, UWSELA president and CEO. “We want to ensure hospitality workers who are unable to work during this crisis can afford to take the same precautions as everyone else, provide for their loved ones and access quality health care should they get sick.”
Grant applicants must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Earn at or below $30,000 for an individual and $61,000 for household with children (figures informed by the region’s minimum ALICE household survival budget)
- Reside in United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s seven-parish service area, including Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Plaquemines, Tangipahoa, or Washington parishes
- Work in a Louisiana-based restaurant, bar or hotel between Feb. 1, 2020 and date of application
- Are experiencing a financial emergency as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak
Supporting documents required for application include:
- 2018 or 2019 tax return
- Government-issued ID or driver’s license proving Southeast Louisiana residency
- Recent check stub showing proof of employment based on eligibility requirements
Hospitality workers can apply online at UnitedWaySELA.org/HospitalityCares or call 211 to complete the application over the phone. Applications are reviewed within 10 business days of submission. Funds are limited, and it is not guaranteed that each qualified applicant will be approved.
Public donations can be made to the Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund at UnitedWaySELA.org/HospitalityCares.
UWSELA is exploring support for other industries as additional funds become available.