Austin Service Industry Resources Continued: Where to Donate, Where to Apply

This week I was laid off as a result of the cautionary measures unrolled to prevent Covid-19 from spreading. I’ve thrived in hospitality for seventeen years and now, as I observe our industry lying in its gentle coma, it’s apparent how essential support is to former service workers.

Amidst daily challenges, our communities and infrastructures are transforming. The Senate approved its first wave of relief measures and, importantly, will be constructing more polished bills to maximize effectiveness for the future. Mass unemployment filings, unemployment waiting-week forgiveness, new laws to allow alcohol delivery, and added job recruitment are among the hourly advancements.

I’m hopeful. As we’re being forced into this strange margin of being, somewhere between solitude and solidarity, I hope you are, too.

In the meantime, here is an updated list of resources for those of us in Austin who have been unexpectedly displaced and where to rally financial support:

1. ONE FAIR WAGE CAMPAIGN

One Fair Wage has long been fighting for industry rights and living wages, and are committed to this reform long after our current emergency passes. They presently provide actual cash assistance to tipped employees, delivery workers and app-based drivers now in crisis. Eligibility includes undocumented immigrants. Donate/ Apply

2. RESTAURANT WORKERS’ COMMUNITY FOUNDATION 

This New York based foundation partnered with Houston’s Southern Smoke (see below), allocating funds for individual restaurant workers, non-profits supporting those workers, and restaurant loans. Focused on quality-of-life and created by former industry professionals, the RWCF is using their non-profit power to gather funds while Southern Smoke focuses on distribution. Donate

3. SOUTHERN SMOKE

Southern Smoke has been supporting those of us in the food and beverage industry since 2015 with over a million dollars in donations. Today they are distributing funds to service industry affected by Covid closures, giving priority to those in medical need. Applications are available in both English and Spanish, and best completed on a computer (their portal is not compatible with most phones). Donate/ Apply

4. UNITED WAY WORLDWIDE

United Way is a privately funded non-profit primarily using 211 to offer resources. Their site has collected information on food assistance, continued internet access, and mental health. Donate to the Austin Chapter.

5. CENTRAL TEXAS FOOD BANK

The CTFB continues to serve over 21 counties in Central Texas, but is experiencing unprecedented demand. While they’re no stranger to emergency relief, they are actively seeking volunteers and donations. A sum as small as $25 can feed up to 100 people. Donate/ Find Groceries

6. USBG

This week we saw tantamount support for the industry as Jameson, Diageo, Beam Suntory, Glazer’s, Ilegal Mezcal, Screwball Whiskey, Michter’s Distilling and the Duff’s donated significantly to the U.S. Bartender’s Guild. This registered charity runs the Bartender’s Emergency Assistance Program (BEAP), providing grant money to those eligible with a typical 4-6 week turnaround time. Right now, Jameson is continuing to match donations. Donate/ Apply

7. SOUTH BY SOUTHBEST

Created in response to SXSW’s cancellation, this t-3 organized goFundme is remaining open to continue serving workers and industry non-profits. Earlier this month they dropped in to bars and restaurants to deliver money firsthand. For a list of GoFundMe’s Covid-related campaigns, visit here. Otherwise, you can donate to help SXSB meet their goal.

8. SERVICE WORKERS MUTUAL AID FUND

An inspired group of students in Ohio put together this national fund with Paypal to provide money to service workers. For updates on their progress and for alerts on when their anonymous application window reopens you can follow this instagram account. Contributions can be made internationally and PayPal has a guest checkout. Donate

9. ANOTHER ROUND ANOTHER RALLY

I learned about ARAR through Patrón‘s recent donation. Another service industry non-profit offering aid, ARAR is handing out grants in $500 increments to its recipients. The application is available in both English and Spanish, and they’ve simplified issuing funds by utilizing most cash apps, checks, and visa gift cards. Donate/ Apply

10. JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION RELIEF FUND

A newer charity funded by Patrón and San Pelligrino, the James Beard Foundation is collecting donations for grants. The JBF typically backs smaller businesses with under 500 employees, maintaining the diversity of our industry. To add your restaurant or organization to their list as they continue to form, head here. Donate

IMMEDIATE FUND DONATIONS & DISTRIBUTION

1. LEVELER

Leveler works to connect donors with beneficiaries in waves. Using a mobile app, a contributor is assigned ten people to send even amounts of money to in “peer to peer wealth distribution”. The return time is fast, and is not limited to hospitality. Any freelancers, creatives, retailers or others impacted by the Covid crisis can submit their information. To join the database, fill out this form (currently under 30 people in Austin have submitted).

2. AUSTIN VIRTUAL TIP JAR

It doesn’t get any more direct than this virtual tip jar. The site collects voluntary Venmo and PayPal identities for laid off industry workers, so that those wanting to donate directly to the affected can do so immediately. It’s worth noting that using Venmo may maximize your contribution effort. When a Venmo user deposits their funds, they can waive the bank transaction fee if they wait 1-3 business days to receive money. Many other fundraising sites incur a nominal but necessary processing fee for security reasons, usually a percentage removed from the original amount.

3. AUSTIN SERVICE INDUSTRY TIPS

Using a similar philosophy to those mentioned above, this website randomly assigns you the information of a service industry worker that you can instantly send money. They recommend that “Every time you have a drink at home during social distancing, consider tipping a local service industry worker through Venmo or Cash App.” To donate, go here. To receive aid, go here.

Continued Actions & Links

It’s important as a hospitality community that we remain visible while government aid and legislation are forming. Stay engaged, mind your mental health and please share what you can with others so that we can continue to be heard.

  • Petition for immediate restaurant relief found here.
  • Petition to eliminate sales tax on alcohol found here.
  • Petition to charge rent at cost for Austin hospitality workers found here
  • Petition for a federal aid package to support the industry found here
  • The National Restaurant Association made a platform for you to quickly email Congress and demand their support. To participate in their streamlined efforts, go here.
  • Aunt Bertha is a localized social care network connecting those in need with assistance programs. They have up-to-date information on services, including access to food & phone companies that will maintain service while you’re unemployed.
  • To swiftly email our Texas Senators, Representatives, or the President urging them to prioritize the hospitality industry aid over larger cruise ship and airline companies, use this letter. Contact information for Sen.’s John Cornyn and Ted Cruz can be found respectively, and a list of our representatives are here.
  • For information on the movement to make to-go cocktails a reality, follow this #margsforlife instagram. The lawyer(s) powering the group are meeting with TABC commissioners this Tuesday, the 24th.

Other ways those whose salaries have not been dramatically affected by the Covid-19 crisis can continue to help:

  • For a list of on-going virtual charity auctions that directly support Austinites, head to Help Austin Now. Auction money will be sent to your charity of choice once you win a bid.
  • For a list of businesses that have converted their kitchens and bars to curbside & to-go options, visit The Austin Takeout Tracker or local blogger Koko’s easy-to-navigate neighborhood list. For many businesses that are still being held accountable for their regular bills, this is the only way they are able to persevere.
  • For a list of Austin restaurants you can support by purchasing a gift card, drop in to Give Local and share the love.
  • For a list of wineries you can support as social distancing replaces their everyday business, head here.

All the best,

J.R.

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