Seattle (January 11, 2021) – Today, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced that $2.17 million in direct cash assistance is now available for hospitality workers who live and work in Seattle who have lost jobs or income due to COVID-19. People in need of assistance can visit this website to learn if they qualify and apply for resources. This funding is part of the Mayor and City Council’s December announcement to provide up to $5 million in new financial assistance for small businesses and hospitality industry workers impacted by the most recent COVID-19 restrictions. More than 1 million people have collected unemployment benefits in Washington state since the pandemic began. In Seattle alone, more than 600 restaurants and bars have been forced to close for good due to the pandemic.
“Across the country and Washington state, so many people have lost their jobs and had their livelihoods profoundly disrupted – more than 1 million people have collected unemployment benefits in Washington state since the pandemic began. In Seattle alone, our most loved small businesses have been forced to close their doors for good, including more than 600 restaurants and bars,” said Mayor Durkan. “These emergency grants are intended to provide a lifeline to hospitality workers most recently impacted. While these grants are a necessary aid, ultimately, Congress must finally pass a COVID-19 worker relief package that actually meets the scale of need in our communities. Every day they fail to act, more small businesses close their doors for good, and more workers lose their jobs.”
“Thousands of hospitality industry workers across the City of Seattle have born the economic brunt of the ongoing public-health restrictions imposed on our restaurants, bars and hotels. While some have lost their jobs entirely, others are making significantly less due to reduced hours. This surge of $2.17 million in direct cash assistance for our most impacted hospitality industry workers will provide much needed relief to these workers and their families. This is, however, temporary relief while we await for desperately needed federal and state aid and the widespread deployment of COVID-19 vaccinations. I am grateful for the opportunity to work in partnership with Mayor Durkan and my colleagues to make this important economic relief available to hundreds of hospitality industry workers,” said Council President M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide).
“While the vaccination rollout brings new hope in our fight against COVID, the corresponding recession is far from over, especially on our hardest hit industries. Providing relief for our hospitality workers is another example of the City’s commitment to supporting of our most vulnerable residents, and reflects our city’s values of prioritizing relief to small businesses and workers throughout this pandemic. With this funding, I recognize that so much more is needed and commit to fight at the federal, state and county level for funding to help our local economy thrive,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide).
“We know $2.17 million isn’t enough to extend help to every hospitality worker who needs it as this pandemic worsens. Our hope is this relief fund helps some Seattle workers and their families survive these next few months, as we wait for larger federal COVID relief measures from Congress,” said Councilmember Tammy J. Morales (District 2, South Seattle and the C/ID).
The City of Seattle’s Human Services Department (HSD) contracted with Wellspring Family Services to administer and distribute the $2.17 million in direct cash assistance in partnership with the Seattle Hospitality Emergency Fund for hospitality workers. Through this fund, hospitality workers that have experienced economic distress caused by job or income loss due to COVID-19 may be eligible to receive up to $2,000 per family. An individual could receive $1,000, with an additional $200 per dependent, up to $2,000 per family. Eligible recipients must either be laid off or employed and facing reduced hours in the hospitality industry and earn less than 60% of the area median income (AMI) to qualify. Applicants must live in Seattle and have worked at a hospitality business in Seattle. This can include franchises or chains located in Seattle, with headquarters elsewhere. Gig workers are not eligible, but delivery drivers for restaurant or bars are eligible. After eligibility is established, there will be a weighted selection process that will prioritize applicants with dependents and earning less than 50% AMI. To learn more and apply, please visit this page and connect with Wellspring.
Wellspring has been helping Seattle-area community members in crisis since 1892. According to Wellspring’s Director of Housing Services, Nawiishtunmi Nightgun, “When people have no safety net, Wellspring steps in as a companion and resource-navigator. When the pandemic arose, it just made sense to expand our essential services to individuals and families during these dire economic circumstances.” Since March, Wellspring has collaborated with community partners in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties to deliver nearly $10 million in financial assistance to individuals and families impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
“I have immense gratitude for the City’s action in supporting hospitality workers through this economic crisis. I receive daily messages from worried hospitality workers, unsure of how they will access essentials to survive. Alongside the eviction moratorium and relief programs, the implementation of this direct cash funding will ensure safety to many people who have been disproportionately affected by this crisis,” said Jessica Tousignant, Executive Director of Seattle Restaurants United and Founder of the Seattle Hospitality Emergency Fund. “I am so proud that Wellspring Family Services has been contracted to administer and distribute the Seattle Hospitality Worker Emergency Relief Fund, they have been serving the wider community for well over a hundred years, and partnered with SHEF in its early success. Since the beginning of this crisis, they have helped serve the hospitality industry with thoughtful compassion and dignity from the outset. I can think of no better suited organization to do this work.”
To date, the City has invested millions in small businesses through its emergency Small Business Stabilization Fund. Applications for the most recent round of funding closed on November 30. The Office of Economic Development is contracting with Scholarship Junkies to award grants from the additional funding announced in December for eligible restaurants and bars.
The City also has a number of relief programs for working people, including emergency grocery vouchers, rental assistance, and support for immigrants and refugees. The City’s Disaster Relief Fund for immigrants recently distributed $7.94 million to 3,730 applicants.
Seattle’s labor standards laws provide worker protections that may be helpful to know about as workers navigate this difficult time. These protections include the requirement that an individual’s former employer pay all the compensation owed to them (like final wages) and, when an individual returns to work, the accrual and use of paid sick and safe leave for absences caused by illness (among others). For more information about these rights and others, please visit the Office of Labor Standards website.
Residents and businesses can find a list of existing COVID-19 relief resources and policies on this website.