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Health or finance? Service industry workers face tough decision as the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect the economy.

USA TODAY

A new relief fund for metro Detroit service workers just got a big boost from a famous Motor City native, comedian Lily Tomlin.

Tomlin donated $100,000 to the emergency fund created by One Fair Wage, a campaign dedicated to ending below-minimum wage for tipped  and service workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Tomlin, who stars in Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie” with actress Jane Fonda, came to Detroit in 2017 with Fonda to spread the word about One Fair Wage’s campaign to get an initiative on the 2018 ballot that would boost Michigan’s minimum wage. 

One Fair Wage’s emergency cash fund, which has reached $175,000 in Michigan, will provide cash assistance to restaurant workers, delivery drivers and other tipped workers and service workers in the form of one-time checks in the amount of $213 — a nod to the federal wage for tipped workers which is $2.13.

More: Michiganders who did not qualify for unemployment benefits now eligible

“This global health crisis for all of us is also an acute economic crisis for tipped workers and service workers,” said Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and president of One Fair Wage, in a release. “These are the workers who have trouble making ends meet in good times. In hard times like this, they need our help.”

While the fund is national, a portion of it is specifically set aside for Michigan service workers. Approximately $1.5 million has been raised nationally thus far from around 3,500 donations, according to a spokesperson from the campaign. 

This comes as unemployment claims in Michigan have surged in the last few weeks as many Michiganders are left unemployed as businesses close to abide by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order. 

More: Report: Michigan restaurants lost $491M in sales, 72,000 jobs due to coronavirus

Tracy Brasseur-Pease, of Hazel Park, has been a server in Michigan since 1989, since then, her hourly wage has increased by approximately $1 to $3.89 an hour, she said.

Brasseur-Pease has been working with One Fair Wage since 2017 and lobbied to put the campaign on the ballot to some success before the legislation was gutted during the lame duck session in 2018.

Brasseur-Pease, 48, said she’s currently in a fortunate position although she is currently out of work that she can rely on her husband’s salary to keep their household afloat. 

“When you go to a restaurant you are obligated to pay your bill, you are not obligated to tip me, but yet I am still obligated to pay my bills, my landlord does not care, DTE still wants the money,” she said.

This pandemic is especially hard for service and gig workers who were already experiencing instability due to lack of secure income, “most tipped servers are robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Brasseur-Pease said.

More than 60,000 people nationwide have already applied to receive assistance from the fund, according to a OFW spokesperson.

“These workers are considered essential workers, it’s time to give these people a raise,” Brasseur-Pease said. “They’re out there packing up your salad, packing up your hamburger during a pandemic, it’s time to pay them.”

To apply for cash assistance from One Fair Wage, visit the campaign’s website

Contact Miriam Marini at mmarini@gannett.com.

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