Shelby Co., Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris’ Chief of Staff Danielle Inez said about 2,000 people signed a petition in support of some sort of financial aid for restaurant workers in the county.
On Monday the board approved $2.5 million for restaurant workers hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Shelby County Restaurant Relief Bill was amended to include hospitality workers such as hotel employees.
The money will be handed out in $1,000 increments.
“For many of them, $1,000 will aid in paying their rent, utilities and their food at a time when their hours are being cut,” said Inez.
Hourly and salaried workers from all seven of the county’s municipalities can apply for the funds that will come out of the county’s fund balance.
“We have a rainy day fund and it’s storming. It is storming on our city,” said Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer. “It is storming in our county. So we have to do what we have to do today to take care of people today.”
However, some commissioners were concerned about taking money out of the county’s already lower than desired fund balance or surplus funds.
“This is the perfect example of how government is completely broken,” said Commissioner Amber Mills. “The government breaks it and in this case shuts down restaurants, small businesses and then tries to fix it by taking tax payer dollars out of the fund balance.”
Restaurants in Shelby County are not currently shut down, but the health department did reduce occupancy to just 25%.
Fewer people are dining indoors due to the restrictions and fear of catching the coronavirus with cases sky-rocketing during the past several weeks.
“So when we’re talking about the failing of government, yes government has failed, but where government has failed is at the national and state level. We did not receive a national coordinated response,” said Sawyer.
The Memphis Urban League will be distributing the money to restaurant and hospitality workers for the county.
Now that the money is approved, Inez says the goal is to have the program up and running by the end of the month.
More details on how to apply for the funds should be released soon.