The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) has announced the creation of a Restaurant Employee Relief Fund (RERF) to aid US restaurant workers facing economic hardship during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The industry has been devastated by the economic impact of this crisis, with workers across the country losing their jobs and livelihood due to forced business closures. The Restaurant Employee Relief Fund has been created to help those struggling workers, with 100 percent of the money raised going to impacted restaurant workers.

“Early estimates indicate that as many as five to seven million restaurant workers may lose their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis, and many already have,” says Rob Gifford, president of the NRAEF. “In the face of this pandemic, we are asking the nation to join us in protecting vulnerable restaurant workers through your generous financial support. Please donate online immediately at RERF.US so we can help those in need.”

Industry icon Guy Fieri is leading a nationwide fundraising drive for the Fund via a Restaurant Relief America campaign, which as of Tuesday morning had already collected over $8.3 million for workers. Founding partners of the RERF include PepsiCo, Uber Eats, Constellation Brands, Moët Hennessy USA, Ecolab, Cargill, Boston Beer Company, Shift4 Payments, P&G Professional, The Elliot Group, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP and the Light Foundation.

“My entire career has been in the restaurant business,” says Fieri. “From bussing tables to flambe captain to dishwasher to chef… I’ve done it all. I’ve also spent the better part of the last 15 years traveling this great country meeting other folks who’ve dedicated their lives to this business and let me tell you something, they are the hardest working, most real deal workers you’ve ever met… the heartbeats of their communities. But they need our help and with Restaurant Relief America, we can serve up some support when these restaurant employees need it most… right now.”

“Foodservice workers are facing unprecedented financial challenges and need support for everyday needs such as housing, childcare, and groceries,” says Anne Fink, president of PepsiCo Global Foodservice. “We need to provide relief to our friends, neighbors and customers to weather this storm so the restaurant industry can return more resilient than ever.”

Starting Thursday, April 2, impacted restaurant workers will be able to apply online for a one-time, $500 check to use towards housing, transportation, utilities, child-care, groceries, medical bills and/or student loans. These grants will be administered by the NRAEF and offered on a first-come, first-served basis.