DENVER – The Denver City Council on Monday evening approved $1.5 million in federal grant money to go toward workers at restaurants, hotels, bars, and catering and event companies – among the industries hardest-hit by the pandemic.
The “Denver Back to Work” grants of up to $10,000 for each employer will be distributed by the Colorado Restaurant Foundation and the Colorado Event Alliance. The former will disperse up to $1 million for restaurants and hotels, and the Colorado Event Alliance will administer up to $500,000 to caterers and event companies.
Businesses in those industries will have to apply for the grants with each respective organization. The city and organizations expect that if all the grant funding is used up, the program could affect 140 employers and up to 950 workers.
Only employers located in the city and county of Denver will be able to apply for the grants, which will have to go fully toward workers. Workers will not have to live within Denver for the business to apply for a grant.
“Grants for employers to pass directly to their workers is the best short-term solution we know for immediately improving the climate for recovery and growth,” Denver Office of Economic Development and Opportunity Executive Director Eric Hiraga said in a statement.
The accommodation and food services sector – which these types of businesses are part of – lost the most jobs during the early days of the pandemic and has since gained back the most jobs among industries in Colorado, but a budget forecast released last week by Legislative Council Staff showed the industry is still lagging by more than 25,000 jobs compared to pre-pandemic levels.
The Colorado Restaurant Association’s July and August survey showed about one-quarter of restaurants were considering permanently closing because of a worker shortage.
The similar Angel Relief Fund handed out $3 million last year to more than 3,000 workers in the hotel and restaurant industry.
“We know that these grants will go a long way toward helping restaurants bring on more staff at this crucial time,” said Colorado Restaurant Foundation President Laura Shunk in a statement. “It’s also important to note that these grants can be used for more than just hiring and retention. If workers need help paying for childcare or housing, both underlying systemic issues that are affecting the labor shortage, the grants can be used toward those costs.”