Restaurant and hospitality business owners are asked to apply online and provide the names of employees who were laid off.By Shelby Cassesse

BUTLER, Pa. (KDKA) — Leaders in Butler County are introducing a new program intended to give laid-off hospitality workers a boost for the holidays.

The Butler County commissioners, Center for Community Resources and the Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau are collaborating to provide gift cards to people who have been laid off from their jobs at bars, restaurants and hospitality businesses.

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Jack Cohen, president of the Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau, said the idea stems from concern over increasing layoffs amid new state restrictions. He fears those employees will be without an income throughout the holidays.

“We can’t let that happen over the holidays,” he said. “It’s wrong, and we need to help them.”

Restaurant and hospitality business owners are asked to apply online and provide the names of employees who were laid off. The county will issue gift cards to those employees. The gift cards will be in the employee’s name and dropped off at the business that applied.

The program is intended to help employees at restaurants like Juniper Grill in Cranberry Township. The restaurant is laying off most of its employees while the restrictions are in place.

General manager Michael Rainforth says providing takeout only is not a viable option for the restaurant, and they are better off temporarily closing. He says many of the same employees were laid off earlier this year for more than two months.

“It’s hard to see people having to leave tonight and then go home, not being able to come back for three weeks,” he said on Friday. “Hopefully, it’s only three weeks this time.”

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Rainforth believes the new program in Butler County could be a welcomed helping hand for his employees.

“Any help that anybody can give restaurant workers is very much appreciated,” he said. “These people are all going to struggle to make ends meet while we’re out on hiatus.”

Despite navigating a difficult time themselves, Juniper Grill will still be gathering donated items for the Salvation Army. Rainforth says someone will be by the restaurant periodically to keep the effort going.

Butler County’s new program will also need help from the community. The program is funded by donations.

The amount of money that is raised will be the amount distributed among the people in the program.

“We’re going to send out to the public and ask them if there is anything they can do to help us make sure that all these folks have a good holiday season and not worry so much about the situation that they’re in,” Cohen said.

Restaurant or hospitality business owners interested in the program must fill out a form on the Butler County Tourism website. Donations are accepted there, as well.

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