United Way of Northwest Vermont
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United Way launches Working Bridges to support restaurant workforce

South Burlington, VT:  United Way of Northwest Vermont, Vermont Independent Restaurants (VTIR) and the Vermont Chamber of Commerce have teamed up to support Vermont’s restaurant workers through United Way Working Bridges – an initiative that helps working Vermonters statewide deal with life challenges.

Due to the impact of the pandemic on the restaurant industry, the new partnership will provide resource coordination—one of the services of the Working Bridges program—to VTIR member restaurant employees to assist them when an employee’s life challenges are causing personal and/or family stress.

For more than 15 years, United Way Working Bridges has brought together Vermont employers to effectively develop and test innovative HR practices designed to help workers get, keep and grow stable employment. Through Working Bridges, programs and partnerships are brought to the workplace to address a variety of needs, like free mobile tax preparation, financial education classes, English Language Learning (ELL) courses and more.

A hallmark of Working Bridges is resource coordination. Working Bridges Resource Coordinators (RCs) identify and connect employees to appropriate community resources that address their needs. The RC is a Certified Community Resource Specialist (CRS) and trained financial coach, helping workers navigate areas like housing, transportation, child care, financial goals, health care and more.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Working Bridges services are being offered both on-site and remotely, currently serving approximately 574 employees and students, with 14 percent of issues impacting employees being directly related to COVID-19.

According to data compiled at the end of 2020, 30 percent of people served through Working Bridges are BIPOC compared to about 5 percent in the state overall. Working Bridges serves many New Americans; at least 22 percent report coming to the U.S. from 17 countries and speaking one of 12 primary languages. Additionally, the proportion of women served has increased by 12 percent in 2020, reflecting the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on female dominant professions.

“United Way Working Bridges is excited about this innovative partnership to provide resource coordination and financial coaching services to Vermont’s restaurant employees. This effort is a great example of how cross-sector partnership in Vermont can support economic recovery and resiliency,” said Connie Beal, United Way Working Bridges Initiative Director.

“The pandemic has brought unique challenges and stress to our restaurant workforce. The Working Bridges program will serve to support and resource restaurant team members in navigating what is for many, uncertain and difficult times. We are deeply appreciative of the United Way of Northwest Vermont for launching this program and look forward to ongoing efforts to support our teams and community,” said Sue Bette, Bluebird Barbecue & Co-Founder of Vermont Independent Restaurants (VTIR).