United Way’s Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund hits $1.5M mark; set to reopen crisis grant application process


1,308 individual grants approved to date; $850,000+ available in funding for final round of grants


Contact:  KirbyN@UnitedWaySELA.org

NEW ORLEANS – United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) Monday announced contributions to its Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund reached the $1.5 million benchmark, triggering the reopening of the fund’s crisis grants. The grants provide one-time $500 emergency funding to hospitality workers who cannot afford basic needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.                                       

“Although not surprising, both the outpouring of generosity for hospitality workers and the responses from grant recipients are signs of the remarkable character of our region – even through the most challenging economic depression of our time,” said Michael Williamson, UWSELA president and CEO.  “We recognize individuals in the industry are facing increasingly difficult decisions as the days and weeks go by, and we know every dollar of support we can provide may minimize the risky choices they are forced to make to keep their households afloat.”

The Hospitality Cares Fund has amassed $1.5 million through the generous support of Entergy, private donors, foundations, and businesses. The newest major donors to date include Kinder Morgan and Zatarain’s/McCormick For Chefs with major commitments in the works. 

“Zatarain’s has called New Orleans home for over 130 years. Our foodservice and retail teams remain deeply committed to the greater New Orleans hospitality community to help get everyone through this extremely difficult time together.” said Raj Nair, Zatarain’s General Manager.

UWSELA opened and temporarily closed the fund’s initial application process within six hours on Saturday, March 21, after receiving responses from over 2,000 applicants,

As of this release, UWSELA and its fund partner, the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation (LHF), approved 1,308 individual grants to deserving households across UWSELA’s seven-parish service area.

“I'm a father of four, with a pregnant wife, working as a full-time server in New Orleans. Being the sole provider for my family; we simply don't make enough money to save for a rainy day. When the storm finally arrived, we found ourselves in a bad situation,” said a Hospitality Cares Fund grant recipient who wishes to remain anonymous. “One of my colleagues told me about Hospitality Cares, and initially I was hesitant because I'm not used to receiving free anything, but I convinced myself to do it, and in no time I received the good news that I was going to receive help.”

UWSELA anticipates allocating an additional 1,700+ crisis grants through the second and final round of applications with remaining funds.

Starting Friday, April 24, at 9:00 a.m., hospitality workers can apply online at UnitedWaySELA.org/HospitalityCares or call 211 to complete the application over the phone.

Grant applicants must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Has not previously been awarded a Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund grant
  • Earn a household income at or below $61,000
  • Reside in United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s seven-parish service area, including Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Plaquemines, Tangipahoa, or Washington parishes
  • Work(ed) directly for a restaurant, bar or hotel in Louisiana between Feb. 1, 2020 and date of application
  • Are experiencing a financial emergency as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak

Supporting documents required for application include:

  • Income Eligibility: Copy of 2018 or 2019 1040/1040EZ Federal Tax Return
  • Residency Eligibility: (Choice of one) Louisiana government-issued ID, Louisiana driver’s license, 2020 electricity bill, 2020 water utility bill, lease or mortgage statement
  • Industry Eligibility: Paystub with your name, your employer’s name, and days worked between February 1, 2020, and date of application, or COVID-19 separation letter from employer

Initial application review will take place within 10 business days of submission. Funds are limited, and it is not guaranteed that each qualified applicant will be approved.

Public donations can be made to the Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund at UnitedWaySELA.org/HospitalityCares.


About United Way of Southeast Louisiana

For 95 years, United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) has been a leader and trusted partner in improving lives and making a lasting difference. We fight to eradicate poverty by preparing people for quality jobs, growing incomes, and affording better health and education opportunities throughout Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes. We have a bold vision of equitable communities where all individuals are healthy, educated, and financially stable – and we have a plan. United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s Blueprint for Prosperity guides all strategic investments in programs, initiatives, collaborations, volunteerism, and advocacy aimed at tackling poverty. For more information, please visit UnitedWaySELA.org. Find us on social: @UnitedWaySELA.


About Louisiana Hospitality Foundation

Founded in 2006, the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation’s mission is to strengthen Louisiana’s hospitality industry through support of individuals within the community. We do this by supporting workforce development programs directly related to our industry; providing access to culinary and hospitality education; working to ensure a positive perception of Louisiana’s hospitality industry; and providing financial assistance and/or guidance to people in the hospitality industry during times of crisis.

Since its inception, the Foundation has distributed over $1.8 million in support of its mission. These funds are raised through community support and signature fundraising events including Horses, Hops and Cops, the Fidelity Bank Champions Club at Zurich Classic, the Gold Medal Chefs Gala & Hospitality Awards, and Santa’s Kitchen.

Follow on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LouisianaHospitalityFoundation, on Instagram at @lahospfound, and on Twitter at @lahospfound and for additional information visit http://www.louisianahospitality.org.