Viral response

Billy Eichner helps bar staff left without wages over COVID-19

Billy Eichner
(Photo: @billyeichner | Twitter)

Comic and actor Billy Eichner has helped to highlight the economic crisis facing many LGBTQ people who work in the service industry.

With the ongoing spread of coronavirus, some cities and states are acting to close down all public gathering points.

Although everyone understands the importance of acting to stem the spread of the virus (which at the time of writing has been diagnosed in 182,000 people worldwide and killed 7,200), the economic impact is going to be incalculable.

Related: New York City and Los Angeles close all bars and restaurants

Where not forced to close down, some bars are staying open as long as they can. The financial implications of closing are undoubtedly one of the reasons for this.

On Twitter on Sunday, Eichner responded to a tweet calling on singer Lance Bass to shut his West Hollywood bar and restaurant (Bass did so at the close of business on Sunday – his venue is still able to offer takeout).

Responding to an image of Bass’s busy bar, Eichner tweeted, “This is unacceptable. We MUST find a way to subsidize these workers (please tell me a reliable org to donate to and I will!) but my god if there is one community that should know the consequences of this type of crisis it’s ours.”

Eichner went on to tweet a link to the USBG National Charity Foundation (US Bartender Guild), which helps out with grants for bartenders. It’s launched a COVID-19 relief campaign where people can donate or apply for help. Eichner said he was donating.

Jameson Irish Whiskey is donating to the same fund. It tweeted it was pledging $500k.

The charity says it is facing a huge number of applications. It also has links to similar non-profits helping those in the service industry.

The poster of the tweet Eichner was responding to was LA songwriter and activist, Justin Tranter.

Tranter went on to post a message, stating he wanted to offer more direct help: “I know how many lgbtq people make their living in nightlife. I was one of them for well over a decade. But there will be NO NIGHTLIFE for a very long time if we don’t take this seriously for the next few weeks.

“If you are an lgbtq nightlife worker who is suppose to be working tonight, dm me your Venmo I will send you your nights pay to stay home. I’m not kidding.”

He went on to later tweet, “Hi loves!!! Venmo is not letting me send anymore money, cus I’ve hit me limit. I’ll try again tomorrow. Stay strong lgbtq nightlife heroes!”

Others are also appealing for more direct help. A tweet from last week encouraging queer creatives, bar staff, those in the gig economy, sex workers and others to share their cash apps – and for “wealthy queers” to step up – has gone viral, with thousands posting their details.

Related: Fetish fashion brand CEO offers the words of comfort we need right now 

In related news, Senator Mitt Romney – yes, Republican Mitt Romney – yesterday proposed every American should be given $1,000 as an emergency coronavirus payment.

“Every American adult should immediately receive $1,000 to help ensure families and workers can meet their short-term obligations and increase spending in the economy,” a release from Romney’s office stated, “Congress took similar action during the 2001 and 2008 recessions.

“While expansions of paid leave, unemployment insurance, and SNAP benefits are crucial, the check will help fill the gaps for Americans that may not quickly navigate different government options.”

Whether the proposals are included in future House response packages to the viral pandemic remain to be seen.

In the meanwhile, authorities are reminding people to frequently wash their hands, practice social distancing (i.e. limit the number of people you see or mix with), and to self-isolate if they suspect they have any symptoms of COVID-19. For more advice, check the guidance from the World Health Organization.