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Hampton Roads Virtual Tip Jar aims to help struggling service workers

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Posted at 1:48 PM, Mar 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-26 07:01:59-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Coronavirus has literally affected every facet of life.

Businesses across many sectors forced to minimize operations or close their doors. The restaurant industry has been struck particularly hard, and workers who rely heavily on cash tips are trying to stay afloat.

"This has been a difficult time for everyone throughout the service industry. For me, 80% of my income is tips," said Maryah Bermudez, who works at Peabody's nightclub and Chesapeake Bay Distillery.

"I have two kids and I don't know when I am going back to work, and now they are home full time with no school. I mean, you can save for a rainy day, but this is more like a rainy few months many don't have," said Bermudez.

Norfolk resident Melissa Corrigan, who is married to someone in the service industry, has been hearing the cries for help, prompting her to start the website Hampton Roads Virtual Tip Jar.

"There are almost 300 names on the list right now. No one thought it would go on this long and be this serious," said Corrigan.

Scroll through the website and the sentiments from all the workers are the same - hours cut or restaurants closed indefinitely.

"Some people are in a really serious place. They have no cash flow; they relied on tips before to go to get groceries," said Corrigan.

Now, people are saying, 'How are we even gonna pay rent or bills?'

Those are questions Luna Maya Owner Vivian Montano hears every day. She employs 37 people at her Latin American eatery in Ghent.

Related: 'It's minimal interaction,' city leaders say of restaurant service to help prevent spread of COVID-19

"The most shocking thing has been the suddenness - no time to prepare," said Montano. " "Some of my employees literally depend on this income to take care of their families. That has been the most heartbreaking."

To help service workers make ends meet, you can donate to them directly on Hampton Roads Virtual Tip Jar through Venmo or PayPal.

Corrigan has also started the website Restaurantaid.org, which has resources for service industry workers as well.

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