Program participants of Marillac St. Vincent. Credit: Provided

CHICAGO — The state-issued shutdown of all bars and restaurants in Illinois and the cancellation of all large events due to coronavirus has left countless service workers, performers, bartenders and waiters out of work.

Social service agency and food pantry Marillac St. Vincent is launching a COVID-19 Relief Fund to help families living paycheck to paycheck who are most vulnerable to the economic fallout from the virus. Marillac is identifying hourly workers with the greatest need from within their network to award the $50 cash gifts.

Marillac aims to raise $10,000 so they can offer micro-grants to 200 families. Each donation will also get a dollar-per-dollar match up to $5,000 from an anonymous donor.

“We’re using the money to provide a small stipend for food, filling prescriptions, diapers, and other necessities to as many working families as possible to make up for lost income,” said Maureen Hallagan, Marillac St. Vincent’s Chief Operating Officer.

The gifts will target families served by the Marillac St. Vincent network of social services, especially people who are put most at risk to coronavirus, like older adults. Marillac’s food pantries at 2145 N. Halsted St. in Lincoln Park and 2859 W. Jackson Blvd. in East Garfield Park will remain open for now.

“Say for example you’re an elderly person who drives Uber. If they’re in the risk window for contracting COVID, they can’t be driving around. We want to make sure they’re covered under this,” said Marillac spokesman Stephen Barker.

Randall, a pre-K parent who is hoping to get a micro-grant to supplement her income, said lost wages will be devastating to her family.

“I’ve been working as a server. This is going to be devastating,” she said. “I honestly don’t know how we’re going to make it this month.”

People can donate to the relief fund here.

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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