OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Restaurant Association (ORA) is supporting restaurant employees who have lost their jobs while the state continues to battle the pandemic. Even as some restaurants re-open, they do so without being fully staffed because of social distancing guidelines. ORA began its Hospitality Employee Relief Program at the beginning of the crisis, and to date has raised over $500,000 to help laid-off restaurant employees.
Almost one in ten working Oklahomans are employed by the restaurant industry, and layoffs in the state have topped 65,000. In an industry with notoriously slim profit margins, restaurants have been hard hit economically since March.
“Our goal since day one of this crisis has been to help in any way possible,” said Chandy Rice, CAE, Director of Education for the Oklahoma Restaurant Association.
To date, the ORA has awarded 625 grants to laid-off restaurant workers thanks to generous donations including lead gifts from the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation in Tulsa and the Cresap Family Foundation in Oklahoma City. Their lead donations of $100,000 each launched the fund that has awarded grants in the amounts of $500 and $1,000. Applicants from the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro areas have reached more than 2,500 individuals during the application window.
“Some have asked if we are going to stop now that restaurants are open. We won’t stop raising money until restaurants can return to their full capacity. Employees will feel the impact of diminished earnings for months to come,” said Rice. “We are exceedingly grateful to the many donors who did not hesitate to help. As individuals and businesses continue to give, it will enable us to award even more grants from our existing applicant pool.”