The impact on the hospitality industry from the COVID-19 outbreak has been swift and heavy.
With occupancy rates plunging, hotels and motels are being shut down, and employees laid off and furloughed.
To help employees facing dire situations, The Above and Beyond Foundation has established an initiative to provide grants to hospitality workers who have lost their jobs.
The foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to honouring and recognizing hospitality workers of excellence.
Founder Mary Jo Valentine Blythe said the foundation normally hands out its Heart of Hospitality Award on a quarterly basis, but it has been put on hold for now to focus on the Helping Hospitality initiative.
Helping Hospitality will provide immediate $500 grants to selected employees in the hospitality industry.
Valentine Blythe told ConventionSouth the initiative just launched on March 24, with the foundation putting aside $40,000 immediately.
“We are giving out 80 grants as soon as possible,” she said.
Meanwhile, Above and Beyond is also accepting donations to create more grants.
According to Blythe, support has been amazing out of the gate, with $5,000 to $10,000 donated in just the first few hours.
“The donations are just flying in. I don’t even know the number because I have to keep checking the reports,” she added.
Blythe said they want to be able to help as many of those who are facing “dire” situations.
“I think the biggest issue is this happened so quickly, and so out of thin air. So people didn’t have an opportunity to prepare for being laid off, not that it’s something you ever know is coming,” said Blythe. “The reality is many of the people in our industry live paycheck to paycheck and they don’t have money in the bank for a rainy day in this situation.”
Donations made the foundation are tax deductible, as they are a registered charity.
Blythe hopes the Above and Beyond Foundation can be a leader in fundraising efforts for the hospitality industry.
“A lot of these sideline GoFundMe campaigns [which have started] are not tax free donations,” she explained. “We are already fully compliant, which gives us a lot of power to take in funds and redistribute them to those in need. We are looking to be a hub of charitable giving at this time.”
Further, while they are focusing on helping employees across the south and the rest of the U.S., it may become a “worldwide effort” in the future, Blythe said.