Grant will give $2.5 million to restaurant, hotel and hospitality workers

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Cash is coming to hourly workers struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic.

On Monday, Shelby County Commissioners passed a resolution to use $2.5 million to help restaurant, hotel and hospitality workers but it wasn’t easy. Some commissioners were hesitant about passing this, including Edmund Ford, Jr.

Ford said it’s because the commission keeps taking money out of their reserve fund which is used for emergencies.

Meanwhile, restaurant workers argue this is an emergency and they are barely making it.

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“It’s really hard to see those guys struggle the way they do,” said Alchemy owner Nick Scott.

Last month, Scott decided to shut down his restaurant because it was tough operating at a 25 percent capacity.

“A lot of these larger places with a big footprint are bleeding money,”said Scott. “They have staff trying to work but when you have staff that are trying to work and a staff that size you can’t spread it that thin.”

Luckily, thanks to a new resolution, his employees can get some help.

The Shelby County Commissioners agreed to give $2.5 million to the Memphis Urban League which will distribute the grant.

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The grant will give $1,000 -$2,500 to hospitality, restaurant and hotel workers.

Despite this win for workers, Commissioner Ford worries about the fund balance or reserve fund where the grant money was taken from.

“What if we have another emergency and we don’t have any money in order to take care of those emergencies?” said Ford.

He said the commissioners originally agreed to stay at a 20 percent fund balance but the number dropped to 16.8 after the resolution passed.

Ford explains this number impacts their bond rating which is similar to a credit score.

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“I’m just concerned that if we had a policy we stated at 20 percent but now we are at 16.8 percent what are we going to do when 7 people want to vote for another item that takes us down to 15 percent, to 14 percent, to 13 percent,” said Ford.

Despite his concerns, Ford ended up voting in favor of the resolution.

Meanwhile, Scott said it’s hard to sympathize about the budget when restaurant workers are barely making it.

“Am I surprised? No, I feel like the restaurant industry has taken the brunt and blame for the pandemic,” said Scott.

The Shelby County Commission plans on asking the state for CARES Act funding to replace the money taken from the reserve fund.

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