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A New Fund Will Offer $500 Grants to Laid-Off Michigan Restaurant Workers

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association is preparing to potentially hand out hundreds of thousands of dollars

A closed restaurant
Gary He/Eater

A state-wide nonprofit is set to offer grants of up to $500 to restaurant workers who are out of work due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

According to the Detroit News, the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association Educational Foundation (MRLAEF) are now able to apply for the grants online. It’s a slight pivot for the organization, which typically focuses its efforts on helping Michigan youth to gain the skills and experience necessary to break into the restaurant and hotel industries.

The MRLAEF is planning to issue as many of the grants as possible, and is currently seeking donors to help it reach as many unemployed workers as possible. Companies like Tito’s Vodka and Great Lakes Wine & Spirits are already among the donors to the fund (personal donations are welcome, too) — the Association also says it plans to match donations, to a maximum of $100,000.

Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association president and CEO Justin Winslow estimates that around 600,000 hospitality workers in the state have lost work due to the mass closure of bars, hotels, and restaurants to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Those laid-off workers will need to jump through some small hoops to claim money from the fund. They will need to prove that they were employed in the relevant industries as recently as March 10 (when Governor Gretchen Whitmer first declared a state of emergency), and they will need to provide documentation showing that they were terminated or furloughed after that date.

The relief fund joins a long and varied list of fundraisers and support mechanisms for hospitality workers whose livelihoods have been affected by COVID-19. However, it’s much more formal than many other sources of emergency funds (which have been set up on platforms like GoFundMe) — and, depending on its final donation tally, the MRLAEF fund could be one of the biggest in Detroit and in the state.

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