CORONAVIRUS

Fund set up for Iowa restaurant, bar workers

An empty interior is seen at Rodina in Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 20, 2020. The restaurant was open only to take-out
An empty interior is seen at Rodina in Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 20, 2020. The restaurant was open only to take-out orders under the mandate implemented to limit the spread of COVID-19. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

The Iowa Restaurant Association has set up a relief fund to assist hospitality workers displaced by the shutting of Iowa restaurants and bars to dine-in service, a measure that went into effect by order of Gov. Kim Reynolds March 17 to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

”Restaurants are cornerstones of their communities, and the employees are what make them shine. Thousands of these hospitality professionals are facing the devastating reality of sudden and unexpected unemployment,” said Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association, in a news release. “People from across the state have asked how they can help, so we’ve created a designated fund within our existing nonprofit foundation to direct 100 percent of the charitable dollars collected to provide relief for displaced Iowa hospitality employees.”

The fund will be distributed to displaced restaurant workers across Iowa. Applications to receive funds will be shared in coming weeks as donations are collected. Donations can be made at restaurantiowa.com.

The restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit sectors as impacts of the coronavirus pandemic ripple through the economy.

Accommodation and food service workers filed the most unemployment claims in Iowa between March 15 and 21, as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor, with 13,364 claims — far above the next sector, health care and social assistance, with 4,926 claims.

And the Iowa Restaurant Association last week reported that a survey of 670 operators, or about 10 percent of the state’s food service industry, found they have seen an 84 percent reduction in sales this month over March 2019.

The survey also found 35 percent of hospitality establishments are closed, including 91 percent of bars, and 82 percent of restaurants and bars have laid off employees.

Comments: (319) 855-2392; alison.gowans@thegazette.com

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