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Howard Schultz and Seattle nonprofits launch fund laid off restaurant workers

Howard schultz starbucks
Starbucks former CEO and Chairman Howard Schultz

MILAN – Starbucks former CEO and Chairman Howard Schultz has created ThePlateFund, a new initiative aiming to deliver $500 in one-time payments to restaurant workers in King County (state of Washington) who either recently lost their jobs or had hours severely cut back during the coronavirus pandemic. Once an application is approved, the money can arrive within 48 hours. The fund officially launched on April 6.

Schultz organized the coalition over the past two weeks with his family foundation, the Seattle Restaurant Alliance, the Seattle Foundation, and the digital cash platform UpTogether, among others, raising $4 million in funding to start.

The groups also consulted with several of the area’s most well-known chefs, including Edouardo Jordan, Tom Douglas, Renee Erickson, Ethan Stowell, Taylor Hoang, and Wassef Haroun, on finding the best way to help the nearly 100,000 restaurant workers in King County impacted by the crisis.

“I am heartbroken at the numbers of small businesses and restaurants who have lost revenue,” said Howard Schultz in an interview with the Business Journal.

“In King County, 100,000 restaurant workers haven’t gotten a paycheck for three weeks, and there are owners who don’t know whether they will be able to reopen, and yet they have turned their restaurants into kitchens for both the community and restaurant workers to get food. That brought me to tears.

So the Schultz Family Foundation started #ThePlateFund to help those restaurant and food service workers who are out of jobs and money because the places they work have been decimated by the pandemic.

We felt we had to step in and provide a bridge of some immediate cash. We seeded it with $2 million, and another $2 million has come in from other partner donors.”

The Plate Fund devised a streamlined application process to get workers cash immediately, with payments meant to cover some basic needs before more relief can arrive. “It’s really meant to be a financial bridge,” Schultz told Eater Seattle.

Accessibility is also a key component to the fund. There is no requirement to have a Social Security number to apply, and those who don’t have a bank account will be connected with Seattle Credit Union so they can open a no-cost account that doesn’t require citizenship verification.

“We wanted to make sure there was a mechanism in which undocumented workers didn’t feel vulnerable,” says Schultz.

Schultz, who hopes this model will expand across the nation.