Miami Beach to Consider Relief Request for Hospitality Workers

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Miami Beach to Consider Relief Request for Hospitality Workers:

Local Union Proposes Financial and Training Assistance

The Miami Beach City Commission on Wednesday will consider a funding request from the local hospitality workers union for a proposal that would provide financial assistance for the workers hardest hit by the hotel shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, help navigating through the available emergency resources, and “relief and recovery training.” UNITE HERE Local 355 which represents 2,500 hospitality workers in Miami-Dade County is seeking a total of just over $2 million from local governments and the County. The request to the City of Miami Beach is for $200,000.

In an email to the Mayor and Commissioners, City Manager Jimmy Morales wrote, “Given that our city has approximately 40% of the hotel rooms inventory in the county, many of these employees do work in our hotels.”

The emergency request is from UNITE HERE and the Hospitality Employee Advancement & Training Center (HEAT), a non-profit 501(c)3 training partnership between Local 355, hospitality employers, and the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency.

“This relief would be offered to both union and non-union workers alike,” according to the proposal. “In just the last few days, we have been inundated with hundreds of calls for help.”

“The hospitality industry in South Florida is in a crisis of historic proportions,” it states.

According to the request, “In 2018, Miami tourism related industries attracted 23 million visitors and generated $18 billion in revenue to the economy.” 

There were 342,400 people employed in the Leisure & Hospitality Industry in South Florida as of December 2019. A little less than half – 150,000 – work in the Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, FL Metropolitan area, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data provided by the union. UNITE HERE estimates that “approximately 90% of the workers who are represented by the UNITE HERE Local 355 and other hospitality workers are laid off or are experiencing drastically reduced hours.”

“A majority of employers are not providing any pay for the laid off workers. The number of layoffs is expected to grow to close to 100% by the end of March as more food operations close or reduce operations to skeletal staff,” the request states.

Funding would be spent as follows: 
  • $1.6 million to provide $400 a month for four months “to the most desperate 1,000 hardship cases among hospitality employees for rent, utility assistance and food assistance.”
  • Relief and recovery training to 2,500 hospitality employees who are laid off as a result of the state of emergency… “training which could be valuable to displaced workers returning to a future recovery of hospitality operations, such as Deep Cleaning Training to CDC/OSHA standards.”
  • Case management services to assist 2,500 hospitality employees in “obtaining access to emergency resources, such as unemployment insurance, food stamps, Medicaid, utility deferrals, and similar resources. Given the difficulty of accessing public assistance and language barriers, workers are unlikely to obtain all of the public resources available to them without personal assistance.”

Mayor Dan Gelber thinks a center to help displaced workers access the benefits that are and will become available to them “makes sense.” 

“We want them to go through the least amount of anxiety and pain as possible,” he said. “Sometimes it’s very hard to navigate the benefits packages and all the initiatives that are provided by the government.”

He said he wanted to better understand the details but added, “I think we’re committed to helping this industry which is so important to our economy as well so I suspect there’s a lot of desire to help. I just think we have to do the due diligence to make sure that this is the right route to take.”

Commissioner Michael Góngora said he thinks the City should agree to the funding request though he wants to be sure all displaced hospitality workers in Miami Beach are eligible and to understand how requests will be reviewed and the criteria for assistance.  

“Miami Beach is able to provide the $200,000 and I don’t think that’s the end number,” Góngora said. “I think that’s the start number, where we can start to provide assistance now.”

Commissioner Steven Meiner said he also supports some short-term relief. “It’s devastating to our hospitality industry, the hotel owners, the management teams, the hotel workers… especially the employees who work paycheck to paycheck to help feed their families and themselves. [They] are getting financially devastated.”

“There’s a will to try to alleviate that, certainly in the short term, with some kind of financial package to help those workers who have been laid off due to the crisis,” Meiner said.

The special City Commission to discuss the relief request will be held telephonically on Wednesday, March 25 at 10:30 am. Normally, under State law, four Commissioners must be physically present for a quorum but Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has temporarily suspended those rules during the coronavirus crisis to allow municipal governments to conduct business.

UPDATED information on how to participate in the special telephonic Commission meeting.

From the City:
The Mayor & City Commission will hold a Special City Commission Meeting on Wednesday, March 25 at 10:30 a.m. to discuss relief efforts for hospitality workers. The City Commission will appear telephonically and the public may participate. Follow the steps below to join.
  • Please call 855.756.7520 Ext.57817# to listen and participate in the meeting.
  • Participants may also view the meeting online or live on MBTV on Atlantic Broadband Channel 660 or AT&T U-verse Channel 99.
  • If a participant wishes to ask a question or make a comment when the Mayor opens up a topic for public comment, the participant should press 0. Once you have done so, the meeting moderator will add you to the queue and your line will be taken off mute once it’s your turn to speak.
  • Participants should provide their full name and they will have 2 minutes each for public comment.

Once again, if you would simply like to listen to the meeting without participating, you can do so by tuning into MBTV channel 660 on Atlantic Broadband or watch on the city’s livestream via the City's MBTV webpage.


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Susan Askew
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