Guy Fieri Raised $21.5M for Restaurant Workers, Praised for Doing 'More Than Congress'

Food Network host Guy Fieri worked to raise more than $21.5 million in seven weeks to help unemployed restaurant workers, prompting many to praise him for "doing more than Congress" to assist struggling hospitality employees during the pandemic.

The longtime TV host of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives made personal pleas with large corporate sponsors, including PepsiCo, Uber Eats and Moët Hennessy USA, to support his Restaurant Employee Relief Fund. Fieri started the fund on March 27 as the COVID-19 pandemic was rapidly spreading through the U.S. and much of the world. The group has helped more than 43,000 restaurant workers "who have suffered financially due to the COVID-19 health and economic crisis," particularly through $500 grants to restaurant workers in every state.

Fieri and the relief fund were able to raise $21.5 million between March and August, a representative with The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation told Newsweek Tuesday.

Fieri's philanthropic efforts to help hurting hospitality workers in the past seven weeks has prompted many to highlight Congress' failure to pass any major pandemic relief in the past seven months. Comedian and actor Patton Oswalt led many social media responses over the weekend in labeling Fieri a "ridiculously good human who walks it like he talks it."

".@GuyFieri⁩ has raised more than $21.5 million in seven weeks to assist unemployed restaurant workers. Shame on every single one of our government 'leaders' who have failed them. God bless the 'Fundraiser of Flavortown,'" tweeted Janice Dean, senior meteorologist at Fox News.

Eighty percent of the grant recipients reported making less than $50,000 annually in the restaurant industry prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Who would've thought that as 2020 comes to an end, we'd be praising Dolly Parton & Guy Fieri for doing what the government couldn't or wouldn't," reads another top tweet from Joanie Reb. Parton, the iconic country singer, was commended last month for making personal donations toward a coronavirus vaccine.

Restaurant workers are facing increasingly dire prospects as establishments throughout much of the country try to balance winterizing efforts alongside strict distancing precautions indoors and outdoors. The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report on December 4 showed employment in leisure and hospitality is down by 3.4 million jobs since February. About 17,000 jobs in "food services and drinking places" were cut in November alone. Many of those left unemployed are hoping Congress can pass the $120 billion Restaurants Act, which would help fund independent restaurants and bars with fewer than 20 physical locations.

Fieri on Sunday expressed his support for the California Restaurant Association's lawsuit against the state's outdoor dining ban. A judge on Wednesday ordered the Los Angeles County public health department to provide scientific evidence that corroborates the ban. "We gotta keep Flavortown open for biz!" Fieri tweeted.

"Guy Fieri has raised $21.5 million for unemployed restaurant workers, which means Guy Fieri has done more for unemployed restaurant workers than Congress has in the last 8 months," tweeted author Dan Price, heaping more praise on the philanthropic Food Network host.

The Food Network is set to release a documentary, Restaurant Hustle 2020, which Fieri worked on as an executive producer. Premiering on December 27, the film follows four chefs—Maneet Chauhan, Antonia Lofaso, Christian Petroni, and Marcus Samuelsson—as they navigate the challenges of being restaurateurs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"I've traveled coast to coast visiting thousands of restaurants across the country on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and after all the time on the road, it's clear that restaurants are the heart and soul of their communities," Fieri said in a statement released through the Discovery Channel last week. "When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the impact on the restaurant industry was immediate. Restaurant Hustle 2020: All On The Line provides a real and intimate first-hand look into the lives of four top restaurateurs [as they] navigate through it all."

Many major cities including New York and Los Angeles are under threat from government officials of entering a total shutdown of indoor dining next week. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that if hospitalization capacity hits 90 percent within three weeks for any of the state's 10 regions, he will completely shut down all nonessential businesses.

Congress has failed to pass any major pandemic relief funding since the CARES Act back in March. Washington lawmakers from both parties accuse the other side of failing to make adequate concessions to help the country's millions of unemployed workers as well as small businesses.

Newsweek reached out to the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund and Fieri's public relations team Tuesday afternoon, but comment was not available by the time of publishing.

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Guy Fieri has been praised for doing "more than Congress" after raising $21.5M for restaurant workers hurt in the pandemic. Here he prepares a recipe onstage at an event in Las Vegas on January 7. ROGER KISBY / Stringer/Getty Images for Amazon Devices and Services