BEST Hospitality Training, UNITE HERE Local 26 and United Way Launch Hospitality Workers Covid-19 Emergency Fund 

November 30, 2020

Boston, MA – Facing a 90% unemployment rate in the hotel industry and the possibility that a third of the region’s hospitality workers may never return to their jobs, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, BEST Hospitality Training, and UNITE HERE Local 26 are today announcing the launch of the Hospitality Workers Covid-19 Emergency Fund to mobilize resources for emergency financial assistance, with a focus on hospitality workers who have lost jobs or income due to the pandemic. The fund will quickly deploy resources through BEST, a nonprofit career training program that provides individuals with the education, skills, and job placement services to excel in the hospitality industry.

“The need has never been greater, with families facing eviction, high unemployment rates and food insecurity still facing our most vulnerable residents,” said Bob Giannino, President and Chief Executive Officer at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “Since the onset of the pandemic, United Way and BEST have supported over 200 vulnerable households, but so much more is needed. The hospitality sector has been devastated by this crisis and these families and communities can’t wait – they need our support now.”

“Hospitality workers were the first to lose their jobs when the pandemic hit, and they will be the last to be rehired,” said Joan Abbot, Assistant Director at BEST Hospitality Training Center.  “Since March, we have been doing all we can to help local families and individuals who have been profoundly impacted by the COVID-19 virus. As the holiday season and winter weather approaches, this new collaboration with United Way, BEST, and UNITE HERE Local 26 will mobilize more resources to help hard-working families meet their basic needs.”

According to UNITE HERE Local 26, 90% of the hotel workers who belong to Local 26 are currently unemployed. It is estimated that at least 4,000 will not be able to return to work in the hospitality industry for at least a year. Most are immigrant women with children.

Carlos Aramayo, President of UNITE HERE Local 26, says, “We cannot thank the United Way enough for their incredible hard work and generosity in protecting these families during this crisis. This assistance is absolutely crucial to these families right now.”

Donations to the Hospitality Workers Covid-19 Emergency Fund will provide grocery cards for hospitality workers who are trying to decide whether to pay rent or buy food. The BEST Hospitality Training Center, in partnership with Local 26, will distribute the cards. 95% of all proceeds (less credit card processing fees) will go directly to helping hospitality workers in need and their families.

Many of the people currently unemployed have been cleaning rooms, serving food, preparing meals, or working other front-line service roles for decades. Hospitality workers have taken care of us for years. While providing temporary relief now, the fund partners will also assist workers in applying for unemployment and other benefits, if eligible, and make referrals to other resources.

Donations to the Hospitality Workers Covid-19 Emergency Fund can be made online. All gifts are tax-deductible and 95% of the proceeds (net credit card fees) will go to individuals seeking assistance via nonprofits already working in our community.  Donations may also be made via Donor Advised Funds by including “Hospitality Workers Covid-19 Emergency Fund” in the recommendation details. Our tax ID number is 04-2382233.  Checks may be sent to the following address: United Way of Massachusetts Bay, P.O. Box 412866, Boston, MA 02241-2866. Checks can be made out to “United Way of Massachusetts Bay” and include “Hospitality Workers Covid-19 Emergency Fund” in the memo section.

To apply for assistance from this fund, please contact Joan Abbot, BEST Hospitality Training, 617-542-1177, x203.  If you need immediate help, please contact United Way’s 2-1-1 helpline or visit for comprehensive information and referrals related to the virus.