COVID-19 Aid & Resources for Restaurant Employees

COVID-19 Aid & Resources for Restaurant Employees

In late March, Congress passed the CARES Act, a $2 trillion stimulus package to start pulling the nation out of the economic downfall of the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation will provide checks to Americans in the amount of $1,200, creation of a $367 billion loan program for small businesses, and a $500 billion fund for industries, cities and states. This is in addition to a support for unemployment insurance, $150 billion for state and local stimulus funds, and $130 billion for hospitals. Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin said that Americans should receive their checks within 3 weeks. Payments will be made according to your most recent tax returns. The New York Times recently published answers to frequently asked questions about the stimulus package here. Use the calculator at the bottom of the page (sourced from to see your projected rebate.

Despite these unprecedented measures, $1,200 will not replace the salaries many of those affected by small business closures and social distancing. There are additional resources available for restaurant workers who have been laid off as a result of COVID-19 closures and disruptions. Below is a list of relevant funds that Asheville, NC residents may apply for. 


Apply for Unemployment

The NC unemployment insurance system pays temporary assistance to eligible individuals who are unemployed through no fault of their own. When filling out the application, cite your cause of termination as COVID-19. In this special situation, the governor of NC has waived the 1-week waiting period and need for proof of an active job search. Certain conditions must be met in order to meet initial eligibility requirements and to remain eligible to receive benefits. Individuals pay no part of the costs of unemployment benefits. Filing your claim will go faster if you have this important information on hand before you begin. Also, remember that you’ll also have to file weekly certifications throughout the term of unemployment. 

New Belgium Bar & Restaurant Relief Fund

This fund was created by New Belgium Brewing to support food and beverage communities in Fort Collins, Colorado and Asheville, North Carolina, who are in need of financial assistance due to the COVID-19 economic disruption. New Belgium seeded this fund with a $50,000 donation and a commitment to match donations up to an additional $50,000. Grants will be issued in the amount of $350 per individual.

NC Restaurant Workers Relief 

Established by the NC Restaurant & Lodging Association, the goal of this fund is to provide immediate financial assistance to the tens of thousands of cooks, servers, dishwashers, housekeepers, and others who live paycheck-to-paycheck, and suddenly find themselves in distress. Needs-based requests are submitted through an online application, which will then be reviewed, scored and determined for funding. Any hospitality employee of a North Carolina restaurant or hotel facing significant financial hardship due to a lay-off, furlough or reduction in hours as a direct result of the Coronavirus Pandemic – COVID-19.

One Buncombe

Local governments, including the County of Buncombe and the City of Asheville, are teaming up with Business Leaders from the Asheville-Area Chamber of Commerce, Mountain BizWorks, and the Land of Sky Regional Council to launch the One Buncombe Fund, a centralized COVID-19 donation and relief center. The mission of the One Buncombe Fund is to support the basic needs of individuals who have lost employment due to COVID-19 and to provide bridge funding to our small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. The One Buncombe Fund provides a secure and immediate way to donate to the response effort. The fund will be used for assistance to individuals and loans to small businesses.

  • Donate here or 
  • Apply for assistance by contacting, or (828) 250-5500.

Restaurant Workers Community Foundation

In partnership with the Southern Smoke Foundation for distribution, the Restaurant Workers Community Foundation is accepting applications for direct assistance. Southern Smoke was created by James Beard Award-winning Chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly Hospitality and Lindsey Brown of Lindsey Brown Public Relations to raise funds for charitable purposes, principally for support and assistance for those in the food and beverage community and their suppliers during times of crisis. Southern Smoke has to date donated more than $1.6 million—both directly to people in need via the Emergency Relief Fund and to organizations that represent the needs of people in the food and beverage industry. The structure for distributing these funds is as follows: 50% for direct crisis relief to individual restaurant workers, 25% for nonprofit organizations serving restaurant workers in crisis, 25% for zero-interest loans for restaurants to get back up and running.

James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund 

This fund is designed to provide critical financial assistance to small, independent restaurants that, due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) national disaster, have an immediate need for funds to pay set operating expenses and keep from going out of business. The goal is to create additional resources beyond federal, state, and local governments to provide for workers, sustain local business, reduce the financial impact on communities, and otherwise mitigate the severe economic consequences of this global pandemic.

One Fair Wage

Established prior to the COVID-19 crisis, One Fair Wage was created to support tipped workers and other service workers struggling to make ends meet. This fund is available to restaurant workers, delivery workers, drivers and other tipped and service workers who sign up with One Fair Wage and participate in a confirmation interview with one of their organizers. At a base level, One Fair Wage will be giving out cash gifts of $213.00 to verified workers. At the moment, One Fair Wage is prioritizing tipped workers, gig workers and service workers in California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, but is taking applications nationally and actively raising money to support workers in all states as soon as possible. One Fair Wage is a fiscally sponsored project of the Alliance for a Just Society.

Another Round, Another Rally

This relief fund is set up to get funds to as many applicants as possible as quickly as they are able to raise them. ARAR is distributing $500 relief grants, and anyone in the hospitality industry, dishwasher, bartender, server, busser, chef, cook, sommelier, manager, host, concierge, cleaning staff, or barback may apply for funds. The funds are distributed  via Venmo, Cashapp, Zelle, or Paypal so those in need can get funds as quickly as possible.

Ben’s Friends Virtual Meetings

The Asheville Ben‘s Friends chapter has moved it’s weekly meetings on Tuesdays at 11am to Zoom. Ben’s Friends offers support for hospitality industry workers battling substance abuse and addiction. Information on how to access them can be found via the Asheville F&B Tribe page on Facebook.

Pisgah Legal is offering videos and documents on specific subjects that could be useful for right now:

Lastly, it’s important to communicate with your banks, lenders, landlords, subscriptions, etc. and ask for deferred payments. Many are creating special circumstances and policies related to COVID-19. Make sure to ask what they are doing to help their customers in this unprecedented time.

Stay safe, stay home, stay positive!