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Work in an Illinois Restaurant? Get Financial Assistance from from IRAEF!

Work in an Illinois Restaurant? Get Financial Assistance from from IRAEF!

You may be able to get a grant from the IRAEF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund (IRAEF) if you live in Illinois and work in the restaurant industry! Keep reading to see if you qualify!


About the IRAEF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund

The Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (IRAEF) is a branch of the Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA). IRA is a nonprofit that was established in 1914 to protect, promote, and improve the restaurant industry in Illinois. 

What is the IRAEF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund?

The IRAEF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund was created in 2020 in response to the financial impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on restaurant employees. The original intent for the fund was to provide emergency financial assistance to restaurant employees who were out of work due to quarantining or restaurant shutdowns. 

The need the IRAEF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund met was so crucial that the program is still in operation and they expanded their eligibility to include other financial hardships. The IRAEF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund provides grants to employees of the food and beverage industry who have experienced an unexpected hardship within the past 90 days. This one time grant can range from $250-$3,000 based on available funds and needs of the individual. 

Who is eligible for IRAEF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund?  

You are eligible to apply for a IRAEF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund if:

  • You are an Illinois resident 
  • You are currently employed in the food or beverage service industry in Illinois
  • You have been employed at the food or beverage service for a minimum of 90 days
  • You can submit documents proving financial hardship

What is this fund for?

The IRAEF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund grant is intended to assist food and beverage industry employees with unexpected financial hardships. They define hardship as illness, injury, death of an immediate family member, or natural disaster. The application also provides an area to explain the impact of the hardship. Assistance is given in the form of a check and can be used as needed.

When the fund was established, many people used the fund to keep food on the table or rent paid while they were out of work. Today, the fund is more flexible but serves the same purpose. Restaurant employees often do not have the paid time off or financial protections of other industries. This fund has helped people cover their expenses while off for an illness or death in the family and pay unexpected bills due to emergencies. 

How to Get Help

The IRAEF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund application is thorough but easy to navigate. Please note, you can save your progress and return to the application at a later time. 

Applications will be accepted until January 3rd, 2025.

Gather Your Documentation

To apply, you will need to submit the following: 

  • Proof of Illinois Residency, such as a license, state ID, or Chicago CityKey ID card
  • Current paystub 
  • Proof of hardship. Such as:
    • Medical bills
    • Doctor’s note 
    • Insurance claim
    • Funeral expenses
    • Death certificate
    • Obituary
    • Photo of natural disaster

Gathering this information before you start your application will help the process go faster.

Apply Online

To apply, please visit this website and select the IRAEF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund grant. You will be prompted to create an account and then taken to a dashboard with seven sections:

  1. Authorization: This section will ask yes and no questions to authorize the information you are sharing.
  2. Personal Information: This section is for your contact information and household demographic details.
  3. Employment Information: This section contains questions about your employer and manager.
  4. Impact Information: In this section, you will be asked to submit two essay style questions about the unexpected hardship and how a grant would help. Word count must be greater than 100 but less than 1,000.
  5. Monthly Expenses: This section will contain questions about your monthly expenses, like housing and utilities.
  6. Applicant Documents: In this section, you’ll be able to upload documents to prove the points you’ve made.
  7. Certification: Finally, you’ll be asked to certify your documents and sign them. This is a formal acknowledgment of your application process. and Required Signature

Please note, each section of the application has to be 100% complete to be considered.

After You Apply

All grant requests will be evaluated in the order they are received. The timing of decisions is not indicated on their website. Approved grants will be notified via email and a check will be sent via mail.

Relief Recap

Unexpected financial hardships can easily set anyone back. Thankfully, there are funds that assist in situations like these. For those working in the food and beverage industry in Illinois, the IRAEF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund could be a great resource when a financial hardship hits. The application is easy to navigate and the awards range from $250-$3,000.