Local fund helps restaurant, hospitality workers

The Serving New Mexico Fund offers assistance to restaurant and other hospitality workers facing unanticipated financial hardship. (Courtesy of The New Mexico Restaurant Association)

Many restaurant industry employees are feeling the financial crunch stemming from cut hours, furloughs and layoffs.

Assisting industry people through their time of need is the purpose of the Serving New Mexico Fund. The fund was created about a year ago as part of the Hospitality Industry Education Foundation, which is a charitable organization.

Restaurant and other hospitality workers who are facing unanticipated hardship can apply for a grant through the fund to cover expenses such as rent, mortgage, utilities, day care, auto repairs, unforeseen injury, funeral expenses for immediate family and more. Grants may not exceed $250.

“It’s not a lot of money,” said Tom Schuch, director of education, New Mexico Restaurant Association. “It’s a minimal amount of money but it will pay a few bills. So we’re doing our best to get checks into the hands of people that have lost work.”

Schuch said not many people understand the type of plight restaurant industry workers are facing unless they have worked in the industry.

“Someone was saying restaurant business workers work paycheck to paycheck, and I disagree with that,” he explained. “They work day to day, especially if they’re a tipped employee. You lose a couple days of work a week, and that is a huge hit. If you lose every day of the week, where’s the money coming from?”

Applications have tripled each week, and about 90% who have applied have received grants. Applications can be made by visiting the fund’s website at nmrestaurants.org/serving-nm-fund. The turnaround time in receiving a grant is about two weeks once an applicant has been approved.

“We’ve heard some heartbreaking stories,” Schuch said. “There was the woman who was working at two restaurants in Taos and that added up to 30-35 hours a week, and then they both closed all of a sudden, so she has no income and her husband is in school, and so that’s really hard. She was our first donee. I talked to a guy last week and of all things he was in the gas and oil business down in Carlsbad and that has gone down the drain. He got laid off from that in January, got a restaurant job, and now he is laid off from that. So yeah, there’s hundreds of stories like that, maybe thousands of stories like that.”

The fund is reliant on donations. It recently received $10,000 donations from the Greater Santa Fe Restaurant Association, as well as Premier Distributing Coy. Other contributors include New Mexico United, ABQ-Live Magazine, Satellite Coffee and Flying Star. Budweiser and Michelob Ultra also are helping raise money for the fund. Donations can be made through the fund’s website.

“We want to be able to keep up with the applications but we need donations,” Schuch said. “And we’ve had some great support from a number of companies. We need a lot more of that to be able to help our (restaurant and hospitality industry) employees. And so we want to help the employees, because that will help the restaurants.”

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