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How Restaurant Workers Can Find Employment During Coronavirus

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A Guide for Restaurant Workers to Navigate Employment During Coronavirus

The US unemployment rate is climbing in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Restaurant workers are among the hardest hit as people opt to stay-at-home instead of dining out. If you’re among the one million restaurant employees working hard to earn a living during the pandemic, here is how you can navigate these turbulent times.

Am I Covered by the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)?

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is part of the CARES Act. The loan program gives $349 billion to incentivize small business owners to continue paying workers and provide benefits. Eligible restaurants must spend at least 75 percent of their loan on payroll costs to qualify for loan forgiveness. If your restaurant is eligible for PPP, you can expect a paycheck and benefits for eight weeks.

Make sure to check out the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund (RERF) too. The fund provides $500 grants to former restaurant workers affected by COVID-19. The goal is to cover short-term expenses, such as rent, mortgages, utility bills, and groceries. Currently, RERF is not accepting new applications due to high demand. The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) is still fundraising money, so follow the fund at for updates.

What Do I Do in Between Jobs?


Unemployment insurance is available to any restaurant worker that is laid off through no fault of their own. If you qualify, your state’s unemployment program will compensate roughly half of your paycheck for up to 39 weeks.

Many states are expanding unemployment insurance due to COVID-19. For instance, if your restaurant temporarily ceases operation, you can apply for unemployment. The same goes if you are furloughed or at risk of infection and need to stay home. Additionally, many restaurant workers will receive a $1,200 stimulus check as part of the CARES Act.


Takeout and delivery jobs are in high demand right now. If you have experience as a server or busser, the chances are you can smoothly transition to a new job in these fields. If you are considering opportunities outside the restaurant, you may need to retool your skill set.

Free online resources, like Khan Academy, give restaurant workers the skills they need to pivot careers. That includes courses in math, science, economics, art, engineering, and more. Taking the initiative to improve yourself will shine through on a resume, too. Employers want applicants that are adaptable, reliable, and problem solvers. Investing in yourself through online education demonstrates all of those traits and more.


It’s impossible to overstate the importance of networking. According to researchers, 85 percent of jobs are filled because of it. If you haven’t done so already, start reaching out to friends, family, alumni, and previous coworkers about employment opportunities.

Remember, you don’t have to be the perfect fit to get hired. More often than not, employers will evaluate you on your past performance and potential upside. Having someone vouch on your behalf can ensure you get an extra leg up on the competition.


One useful trick to dial back spending is to print out your last credit card statement. Highlight the items that were “nice to have,” but not essential. That way, you know exactly where to save money moving forward.

You can bolster your budget by reducing temptation, too. That means unsubscribing from ever-tempting marketing emails and deleting food delivery apps from your phone. Meanwhile, you can keep entertainment costs low by streamlining your streaming services and having remote happy hours.


COVID-19 is putting unwanted stress on people’s bank accounts. United is here to ease that pressure. That’s why we are offering payment relief options for our Members, including:

  • Skip a payment for a monthly bill
  • No fees and expanded eligibility on CD withdrawals
  • No fees on loan payments by phone
  • Deferred payments on student loans for 90 days

What Industries Are Hiring?

Do you enjoy working at a restaurant? If you do, great! There are opportunities to operate curbside pick-up or delivery. Some companies, like DoorDash, are even creating priority access programs to help former restaurant workers transition to delivery.

If you’re not married to the restaurant industry, the coronavirus can be an opportunity to explore new careers. Grocery stores, shipping companies, and communications businesses are on a hiring spree as they try to keep up with online demand. There are also remote working opportunities, such as:

The coronavirus may also be your chance to do a complete 180. The Federal interest rate is effectively zero, and you can get favorable terms on a business loan. If you have a business idea you’ve always want to pursue, this may be your moment. You can talk with a United financial advisor to learn more about starting a business and getting loans today.

The Bottom Line

Losing your job is never easy. The addition of the coronavirus has only injected more uncertainty into a situation that affects more than a million restaurant workers.

There are online resources that will help you stay in touch with loved ones or get groceries without leaving home. Regular exercise with fitness videos is also a great way to keep in shape. Additionally, United will continue to provide financial security and flexibility throughout the coronavirus outbreak. It is our way of ensuring our Members are protected now and in the future.