City launches initiative to ‘save’ restaurants shuttered by novel coronavirus pandemic

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Photo courtesy of the Mayor’s Office

The city will spend $3 million to helping 100 restaurants in the city forced to close by the novel coronavirus pandemic, subsidize paying 1,000 furloughed or fired workers at $20 per hour for at least six weeks and serve 53,000 free meals to people in communities hardest hit by the virus.

“All New Yorkers love food, and we love the beautiful variety of food in this city but in days of color, a mom and pop restaurant, a community-based restaurant is something much deeper than that,” Mayor de Blasio said during a press conference on Thursday. “It’s something precious, it’s something that must be protected.”

De Blasio referred back to his state of the city this year where he spoke about plans to help restaurants struggle with high rents and

Workers from some select restaurants will be eligible for a one-time $500 cash assistance. Restaurant owners taking part of the program must commit to paying employees at least $15 an hour plus tips within five years of leaving the program and returning to normal business, according to Executive Director of the Mayor’s Fund Toya Williford, which is providing $1.4 million to the revitalization program. One Fair Wage, a nonprofit with the goal of eliminating all subminimum wage pay among tipped workers, is pledging $1 million to the program.

Restaurants forced to close or reduce staff because of the pandemic and are interested in “re-opening their doors under a more equitable business model with increased wages” can apply to One Fair Wage and NYC Opportunity, another partnering org, for funding. Selected restaurants will be able to receive up to $30,000 from the city and between $5,000 and $35,000 from One Fair Wage, according to a statement from the nonprofit.

“Priority will be given to restaurants in neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID-19 especially in low-income communities of color,” the statement adds. As a first step in the program, One Fair will offer guides on how other restaurant employers have transitioned to at least a full minimum wage for all employees with tips handled in one of three ways; tips shared among all non-management employees, services charges or gratuity free models.

“We cannot go back to business as usual,” said Williford. “Now is the time for change and this program helps ups pave the path forward.”

This story originally appeared on amny.com.