WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A newly formed Palm Beach County organization is helping workers in the hospitality industry who've been laid off because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Hospitality Helping Hands, or H3, serves meals every day to hospitality workers from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Howley's Restaurant, located at 4700 S. Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach.
The non-profit wants to continue providing free meals for as long as needed, but to do that, it needs financial and bulk food donations from the public.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus
In Florida, all restaurants are only open for take-out and delivery services until at least May 8, according to an executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
That move has forced restaurants across the state to dramatically cut back on staff.
"Last Friday, I had the worst day of my life," said local restaurateur Rodney Mayo at a West Palm Beach City Commission meeting on Monday. "I had to lay off 650 employees, which equates to 1,800 family members."
Mayo, who's part of the Subculture Group which owns Howley's Restaurant, said his company started H3 to help struggling hospitality workers.
"I was bombarded with questions of, where do we go? What do we do? Where do we find money? And I had no answers for them for the first time," Mayo said.
According to new numbers from the U.S. Labor Department, unemployment claims are surging across the country and in Florida as the impact from COVID-19 rattles our economy.
Mayo told city leaders on Monday that his fellow restaurateurs don't have a plan yet to take care of their staff.
"Not one had a plan," Mayo said. "One told me they're sitting back for two weeks to see what the government does. I asked if they were providing food at least. They said, we'll figure that out in two weeks."
Officials with Hospitality Helping Hands said the West Palm Beach City Commission gave the organization a starting grant of $12,000 to get their operations underway.
The non-profit said it'll be able to provide 1,300 to 1,500 free meals per day through Friday.
According to Mayo, the Subculture Group will match any financial donation to H3 dollar-for-dollar.
To donate to Hospitality Helping Hands, click here.