Centering Workers in Economic Relief

Restaurant Workers Coalition Responds to Small Business Support Grant Program

A statement from the newly-formed Restaurant Workers Coalition. To support their work, please sign this petition and spread the word.

On May 3rd, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced a plan to direct $10 million in federal aid to small businesses, tasking the non-profit Dane Buy Local with operating a fund to disburse the money in the form of grants to local businesses. The Dane County Board of Supervisors will vote on the proposed allocation of grants on Thursday, May 7th. In the initial press release, Parisi did not offer specifics around oversight of the fund, and Dane Buy Local has not publicly specified how recipients would be required to use their awarded grant money.

The Restaurant Workers Coalition (RWC) is a Madison-based group of service industry workers organizing and advocating for workers’ material needs during the pandemic and after.  RWC believes that it is vital that any economic assistance benefits workers directly. 

“A lot of [us are] temporarily unemployed people. . . people who have had to quit due to safety concerns, people who don’t have sick time or who don’t have any sort of protections during this time,” says Lillian Myrhe, a restaurant worker in Madison and a member of RWC. 

To meet the needs of not only workers in food service but those across industries, we ask that Dane County set specific guidelines around these funds to ensure that they are used for payroll and to provide PPE and hazard wages to workers on the floor

Further, Dane Buy Local must follow through with all grant recipients to ensure that funds are allocated in the ways indicated in their grant applications. Finally, Dane Buy Local should be transparent about the distribution of grants, including the full list of successful applicants and a record of the reasoning behind their respective allocations. 

RWC believes the Dane County Treasurer should establish a separate fund for direct allocation of resources to workers most impacted by the pandemic, particularly those who cannot access federal funds due to immigration or citizenship status. To learn more about RWC or to get involved, connect with us on Facebook or Instagram at Restaurant Workers Coalition, or email us at

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