RICHMOND, Va - City officials have asked restaurants and businesses in Richmond to adhere to certain guidelines aimed at limiting exposure to the novel coronavirus. The precautionary measures leave even more uncertainty for food industry workers who face a reduction of hours or potential layoffs.
“A complete blood bath. Everybody has been blind sided by this entirely,” said Duncan Parker, who lauched DineGigs.com last year.
The website, which is still in beta testing mode, was designed as a kind of Linked In for the food service industry, according to Parker. They already work with dozens of Richmond restaurants, and Parker said the prospects for food service industry workers and restaurant owners does not look good as extended closures seem more likely as the days pass.
“Nobody is hiring right now. Everybody is trying to hold onto the staff they have. I think it’s safe to say there are some restaurants who won’t make it through this,” Parker said. “You know the end of the month is coming up quickly. There’s rent and bill to pay and lights to keep on and kids running around and all sorts of things that need to remain status quo.”
One option for workers from all industries who face reduced hours or lay offs due to COVID-19 is state unemployment benefits. Officials with the Virginia Employment Commission, which runs the program, said they expect to see a spike in filings in the coming days.
VEC officials encouraged anyone who loses their job or sees their hours drastically cut to file a claim. Still there are certain things VEC officials say are important to consider:
- You need to wait until the day after your final shift to file a claim
- If your customary work hours are reduced, you can apply for “partial unemployment coverage”
- Depending on when you file, you do not receive your first payment until the third week
- There is a one week waiting period, then the first week you qualify, then a payment week
- Applications can be submitted online and over the phone, but officials encourage anyone who can to apply online to reduce backlog time
- Federal legislation that’s pending could soon change how the program is administered and the specifics are fluid
- Monitor vec.virginia.gov for updated information and a link to apply
Monday afternoon, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney urged any restaurants or bars that remain open to eliminate bar seating, cut their table capacity in half, and move tables at least six feet away from each other. City officials are also discussing a period of tax amnesty for local businesses and a short-term loan program to help Richmond businesses facing financial uncertainty.
The timing of coronavirus impacts could not be worse for restaurants and their staff, according to Parker. He said March and April are usually mean increased foot traffic, as consumers being to enjoy warmer weather.
“This is a hit right at the wrong time,” Parker said. “We have a lot of people at risk right now that are right on the edge.”