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Unemployment Help for LGBTQ Bar and Restaurant Workers Affected by COVID-19

Our latest resource list for local and national relief programs.

Note: This article was updated on Friday, March 20 at 4:30 p.m. 

Houston’s LGBTQ workers are the backbone of our favorite gayborhood clubs and eateries. Unfortunately, their livelihoods are being affected following the Harris County decision to shut down bars and dine-in restaurant services through the end of March, in an effort to stem the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. 

In response to this crisis, a slew of programs—from grassroots efforts to government relief—have begun to take shape. Check back on this website, as this post will continue to be updated as more resources become available.

Bartender Emergency Assistance Program (BEAP) 

The USBC United Charity Foundation is offering grant assistance to bartenders and their families experiencing hardship due to COVID-19. For more information on applying for a BEAP grant, go here. To donate to BEAP, go here.

Houston Virtual Tip Jar

Houston activist Ali Lozano has created a virtual tip jar for service and entertainment workers who have lost income due to the COVID-19 shutdowns. Folks who work in these industries can fill out their Venmo/Paypal information here. A compiled list of this information will be available soon for folks who want to donate.

Southern Smoke Foundation 

Restaurant and bar owners and their employees affected by COVID-19 can get help through the Houston-based Southern Smoke Foundation. To apply for funding, go here. To donate to the fund, go here

SBA Disaster Recovery Assistance

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has webinars running every few hours to provide help and guidance to small business owners. For more information, go here.

One Fair Wage

Servers, delivery drivers, and other tipped service workers impacted by restaurant closings can get help from One Fair Wage by filling out the form here. To donate to One Fair Wage, go here

Grocery Stores Are Hiring

H-E-B, Kroger, and other grocery chains have announced that they need help keeping shelves stocked amid the COVID-19 crisis. For more information on who’s hiring, check out this KHOU article

Food Pantries

If you’re in need of food, text FOOD to 855-308-2282 to find the nearest food pantry in your area. If you’d like to volunteer at a food pantry such as the Houston Food Bank, go here

Apply for Unemployment

If your employer has reduced your hours or shut down operations due to COVID-19, you can file an unemployment insurance (UI) claim. UI provides partial wage replacement benefit payments to workers who lose their jobs or have their hours reduced. 

Entertainers and Artists Assistance

Queer entertainers, note that the unemployment benefits listed above are available to you as well! For more information on unemployment assistance for artists affected by COVID-19, go here

COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line

Social isolation during these stressful times can be taxing on our mental health. If you need someone to talk to, call Harris County’s 24/7 support line at 833-251-7544.

Other Ways We Can Help LGBTQ Workers

Keep Ordering Food To-Go 

If you’re feeling well, keep ordering takeout. Many restaurants are still open and are offering delivery service or curbside pickup.  

Check In on Your Favorite Drag Performers, Bartenders, and Servers

Many LGBTQ bar and restaraunt workers have shared their needs on social media by posting their Venmo, Cashapp, and PayPal handles. If you’re able to, donate or repost their links. In addition, some of these entertainers plan to host their shows digitally, and you’ll be able to tip them online.

Donate Directly to LGBTQ Bars

Several queer nightclubs have asked for donations to help pay their workers. Learn more about how to donate here.

Mobilize to Make Your Voice Heard

Call your senators—John Cornyn (202-224-2934) and Ted Cruz (202-224-5922)—and tell them to pass emergency Covid-19 legislation now. You can also send that message to these senators online here


Lourdes Zavaleta

Lourdes Zavaleta is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.
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