On Monday, January 12, Seattle opened up applications for a fund containing $2.17 million in direct cash assistance for unemployed hospitality workers who have experienced particularly acute economic hardships. Those who have earned less than 60 percent of the area’s median income and were recently laid off (or had their hours/income cut) could qualify to receive $1,000 through the fund, with an additional $200 per dependent (up to $2,000 per family). The City of Seattle’s Human Services Department is working with local nonprofit Wellspring Family Services to dole out the money, and those who qualify can apply here.
This effort — part of a grants initiative Mayor Jenny Durkan announced back in December — should provide some much-needed assistance to many in the hospitality industry who have been severely impacted by COVID-19. That’s particularly the case for undocumented workers, who are eligible to apply and receive funds, a key element of the initiative. In the FAQ for the application (also available in Spanish), Wellspring notes the process will not trigger the public charge rule, will not jeopardize a person’s attempt to become a citizen, and that information provided will be kept confidential by Wellspring and will not be shared.
In Seattle alone, more than 600 restaurants and bars have closed permanently during the pandemic, and the Washington Hospitality Association recently estimated that 100,000 jobs statewide were in jeopardy during the recent indoor dining restrictions. There have also been issues with workers seeking unemployment checks from the state. Though Washington’s Unemployment Security Department has said that only 1.8 percent of those filing for unemployment since March 2020 are still waiting on resolutions on their claims, that number still represents 27,000 workers across Washington and the average wait time to resolve claims had been more than three times as long as usual, according to Crosscut.
Gov. Jay Inslee recently announced a relief package statewide that includes rental assistance for low-income residents, and a moratorium on evictions has been extended in Seattle through March 31, 2021. Hopefully, taken together, these measures will provide some respite for many who are trying to find ways to get by during the continuing COVID crisis. But it’s likely $2.17 million will not last long, given the high demand. Despite raising more than three times as much money, the Plate Fund — which launched last spring — ran out of one-time $500 checks for hospitality workers within weeks.
UPDATED, January 13, 2021, 4:43: This article was updated with more details about the eligibility of undocumented workers to receive assistance through the fund.