United Way of Greater Hazleton launches fund drive for local restaurants impacted by COVID-19

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HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The United Way of Greater Hazleton launched a fund drive to provide financial help to employees of restaurants impacted by COVID-19. Donations are being accepted.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact businesses of all types across the nation and here in our region. COVID safety restrictions remain in effect here in Pennsylvania until January 4th. Restaurants and their employees are being especially hard hit by the latest round of state-ordered restrictions. An effort is underway in the Hazleton area to help those employed in those restaurants.

“It became apparent to us that this is almost a forgotten segment of our workforce,” said Pat Ward, CEO of the United Way of Greater Hazleton.

Ward is referring to restaurant employees, including servers, cooks and greeters. He says there are roughly 250 restaurants in the Greater Hazleton Area, all of which are impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.

“If we got word before Christmas that 1,000 people at a plant were being laid off there would be a rally of support. Well, that happened but in smaller work places,” Ward told us.

So he launched the Restaurant Workers Relief Fund. It has raised some $18,000 in donations for restaurant workers who can receive a $200 grant.

“So far the response has been very good. We’ve had a number of applicants already and it just began opening applications this Monday morning,” he added.

“I have 38 employees so if it could help even 5 or 10 that would be awesome,” said Harry Werkeiser, owner of Bonanza Steak House in Hazle Township.

Werkeiser says the latest state COVID restrictions, which banned indoor dining, hit his business and employees very hard.

“This is one of our best times of the year. The holiday season people are out shopping then go out to eat. You know we are missing it this year. We’re still digging out of the first hole that was dug when the governor closed us down before, now we are digging out of a second hole,” he told us.

The Restaurant Workers Relief Fund was launched last week and raised $18,000 in three days from donations from the community.

More information can be found on The United Way of Greater Hazleton’s website.

Andy Mehalshick, Eyewitness News.

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