Delaware Restaurant Association starts relief fund

Trust has already raised $65,000 for workers
March 25, 2020

As the state takes emergency measures to slow the spread of coronavirus, the Cape Region’s restaurants have emptied.

The closure of restaurants has resulted in thousands of workers being laid off. Now a state advocacy organization is raising money to assist unemployed restaurant workers. 

Delaware Restaurant Association has founded the Restaurant Industry Emergency Action Trust to provide direct cash support to industry workers laid off during the coronavirus crisis. 

The trust will be funded through individual donations, corporate partners and private foundations. The first donations came from Dogfish Head’s Beer and Benevolence Foundation, which gave $50,000 up front and has promised $50,000 more when the fund reaches $150,000. Dogfish has also promised to donate the profits from sales of the company’s hand sanitizer, made by Dogfish Head distilling for the state. The association said it also received an anonymous $15,000 donation. 

Carrie Leishman, association president and CEO, said, "We are seeing mass layoffs due to COVID-19, and I am blown away by the humanity of our amazing industry leaders and restaurant operators. Together, we hope to raise awareness and funds to provide grants to full-time restaurant workers in Delaware who are dependent on wages to cover basic living expenses and provide for their families.”

Leishman said the goal is to provide $500 in grants to as many qualifying displaced workers  as possible. She said if $1 million is raised, it would provide 2,000 grants. 

Dogfish co-founder Mariah Calagione said, “Our company has benefited from the support of the local restaurant community for the past 25 years. As a beer supplier to the industry, and restaurant operators ourselves, we know the important role restaurants play in our local economy. We appreciate the Delaware Restaurant Association’s quick response to the current crisis facing hospitality workers here in Delaware and encourage those who are able to join us in supporting the EAT fund.”  

Individuals wishing to donate or sign up for relief can do so at the association’s website,  Any amount will be accepted and a tax-deductible donation letter will be generated upon receipt of all donations.  

According to the association, 11,000 Delawareans have filed for unemployment since Gov. John Carney’s emergency order shutting down sit-down service at restaurants to slow the spread of coronavirus.  The association plans to begin distributing funds via PayPal Monday, April 6. Questions/comments can be directed to

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