AUSTIN, Texas - A row of cars lined up outside TSO Chinese Delivery in North Austin, each car was filled with people in need of a hot meal for themselves and for their family members. Co-owner Min Choe said it's all part of a giving campaign the business started up a few weeks ago.
"If having a nice hot meal can make someone feel a little bit better then we are fortunate that we are in this position where we can provide those meals for free to the people that need it,” said Choe. “It’s so difficult because Austin is already a place that is relatively expensive to live in and the restaurant industry and the service industry is such a big part of the cities economy that laying off all these folks all at one time is really really frightening.”
In an effort to prevent a community widespread of the coronavirus epidemic, local businesses have closed up shop, leaving many service and hospitality employees out of work.
Jorge Dewey was one of the many people waiting in line, Dewey was let go last Monday from his job in the tourism industry.
"Fortunately I have about a month’s rent saved but I also need to eat so it’s either I eat or pay rent," Dewey said.“I have been applying to jobs but so have a thousand people around the city. Really small businesses like TSO stepping up and helping us out even if it’s just for one meal is really appreciated and it kind of keeps our hope up.”
The Texas Workforce Commission has seen the increase of people in need of unemployment assistance first hand. Their website is running a bit slow because of the high volume of users. Francisco Gámez with TWC recommends that anyone who's in need of assistance apply for benefits online.
“We are all working together to help Texans in need we are committed to that and we have seen an increase in the number of people applying for our unemployment insurance and people calling in as well. We are making changes and adjustments and monitoring servers and doing what we can’t help people in need," Gamez said.
Those who were laid off because of COVID-19 can apply for insurance online. Games said TWC will have a better look at the Texas unemployment rate and the disease's impact on Friday.
In the meantime, TSO will continue its giving campaign with online donations. Choe said 100 percent of the proceeds will go to supplies for the meals.
“Let’s be cautiously optimistic. This will pass the coronavirus scare right now is temporary," Choe said. “Go out and support your restaurants support the other small businesses. The whole city is hurting even the other delivery businesses and restaurants so the best thing you can do right now is send a message of hope and love and let’s pay it forward when we can.”
Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a public health disaster, the first in Texas since 1901. The executive orders, which take effect at midnight Friday, March 20 and go through midnight on Friday, April 3, will bring the state in line with CDC guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The public health disaster orders schools to be closed statewide until at least April 3. The disaster also orders a ban on dine-in eating and gathering in groups of more than 10 as the state ramps up efforts to battle the coronavirus. Abbott's order also will shut down gyms and bars. It also bans visits to nursing and retirement homes unless there is a critical need.
FOX 7 Austin is working to keep you up to date with coronavirus, with both local and national developments. Every weekday we're live at 1 p.m. with a special show reporting the latest news, prevention tips and treatment information.
You can also get the latest COVID-19 news from around the country at coronavirusnow.com.