L.A. offers $800 to thousands of restaurant workers struggling during the pandemic

Local news

Los Angeles is offering an $800 stipend to a small number of local restaurant and food service workers impacted by the pandemic, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Wednesday. 

The plan is expected to benefit 4,000 people who work at eateries, food stands and other mobile food units in the city. Those who work at wineries, bars and breweries that serve food can also apply, Garcetti said during an evening coronavirus briefing.

“I’ve heard the pain in the voices of our service workers and from our restaurant owners,” Garcetti said. “I’ve seen it in the data, which shows us that approximately four in every 10 people who work in full service restaurants have already lost their jobs this year.”

Beneficiaries will likely be selected at random if there’s not enough money for all who apply, Garcetti said.

To be eligible, applicants must live in L.A., be at least 18 years old, have an annual income below $58,450 for 2019, and have fallen into deeper hardship due to the pandemic. 

Applications are set to open at 9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 7, at coronavirus.lacity.org/serve. Garcetti said applications would be accepted through Friday.

The initiative — called SERVE, or Secure Emergency Relief for Vulnerable Employees — is a partnership between Garcetti’s office and the nonprofit Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles. 

Following L.A. County’s ban on dining at restaurants that went into effect last week, an estimated 700,000 people in the food industry will be out of work, with the majority earning $50,000 or less, according to the L.A. Economic Development Corp.

Earlier Wednesday, a judge ordered L.A. County health officials to provide scientific evidence to justify the restaurant shutdown that has met fierce criticism. 

At least two cities have moved to defy the ban, with Pasadena’s health department issuing a separate order keeping dining open and Beverly Hills voting to oppose the measure in a bid to overturn it

The new restrictions — including a new “safer-at-home” order that went into effect Monday — come as county health officials warn the region is in the midst of its deepest surge yet.

This week, the county reported the troubling records of most COVID-19 patients hospitalized on any one day — first 2,316 Tuesday, then 2,439 Wednesday — and the largest daily increase in cases, with just shy of 7,600 reported Tuesday.

Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, called the figures “terrifying.” She said L.A. County is already at its worst point since the pandemic began, and she expects it to get worse.

But perhaps more concerning is that health officials are still waiting to see what impact last week’s Thanksgiving celebrations will have on case rates and hospitalizations.

“My message couldn’t be simpler,” Garcetti said. “It’s time to hunker down. It’s time to cancel everything. And if it isn’t essential, don’t do it.”

California leaders say the state could run out of intensive care beds by mid-December if current trends continue, and hospital capacity will be the leading indicator for any new statewide restrictions.

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