application process for zero-interest loan program

Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation and Ascendus Open Application Process for $1.2 Million Zero-Interest Loan Program for Pro-Labor Restaurants


New York City (February 8, 2021) – Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, a national advocacy and action nonprofit founded by and for restaurant workers, announced today the launch of its Restaurant Futures Loan Program in partnership with Ascendus, a national nonprofit small business lender headquartered in New York. 

Advancing its promise to dedicate one-quarter of the $6.8 million raised for its Restaurant Workers’ COVID-19 Crisis Relief Fund, the $1.2 million program with Ascendus will provide zero-interest loans to restaurants committed to creating a safe, positive, and just work environment for their employees.

“Planning this loan program with a workable pro-labor framework has been long in coming, and figuring out the right time to launch a program originally intended to help restaurants ‘get up and running again’ in the midst of an ongoing pandemic has been a challenge,” said John deBary, RWCF president. “But we are proud that we can offer these new resources to businesses that are trying to do the right thing in an immensely difficult operating environment.”

“At Ascendus, our vision is to create a world of financial ascension for all, and we have served the food service sector for decades. At this very trying time for the hospitality industry, we are proud to partner with the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation to not only get the restaurant owners back on their feet, but to also lift up the workers who have been on the front lines of this pandemic,” said Paul Quintero, CEO of Ascendus.

How the Loan Works

Ascendus and RWCF have identified priority states with high concentrations of restaurant workers that have been hard-hit by shutdowns and permanent restaurant closures, and loans will be available to restaurants in states including California, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. Additionally, Ascendus conducted a successful pilot for the program in New Jersey. 

Qualified loan applicants will be asked, before a loan is granted, to consider their business operations on four dimensions and which they aim to improve upon going forward: 

  • Sustainable wages and career ladders
  • Gender equity and sexual violence in the workplace
  • Immigrant and racial equity
  • Supporting workers with mental health and substance misuse challenges. 

Successful loan applicants will not need to demonstrate perfect workplaces, but rather, an interest in identifying areas for improvement and a willingness to share their challenges. 

RWCF intends to form long-term relationships with loan recipients, supporting them with regular communications about improving worker conditions, promoting their pro-labor efforts, and championing their successes in the years to come.

restaurant workers

How to Apply

Restaurant owners in identified states must submit an application online using this special link by February 22. Qualified applicants will then be asked to complete the Restaurant Futures attestation survey. Restaurant businesses that pass both the online application and the attestation survey will receive an email notification from Ascendus by March 1 about whether they were selected as a loan recipient. 

If you have a question about your Restaurant Futures application, email [email protected].  


Looking Forward

The $1.2 million in committed loan funds comes from RWCF’s COVID-19 Crisis Relief Fund, an effort launched last March to support workers and an industry hard-hit by the pandemic. At its current size, the program will benefit an estimated 25 to 45 restaurants in its first year and more in the years to come as loans are repaid and additional donations are made to the Crisis Relief Fund.   

While $1.2 million is a good start, it’s only a drop in the bucket compared to the tremendous need. RWCF continues to fundraise for the Restaurant Workers’ COVID19 Crisis Relief Fund and welcomes donations to support expanding this program to help restaurants survive while treating their workers with respect and dignity. Institutional donors interested in discussing possible donations to the Restaurant Futures Loan Program should email [email protected].



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Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation is an advocacy and action nonprofit created by and for restaurant workers. RWCF was founded in 2018 to advocate for – and raise funds for other nonprofits working toward – gender equity, racial justice, fair wages, and healthy work environments in the restaurant industry. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, RWCF’s additional focus is on supporting workers in crisis and small business owners with the Restaurant Workers COVID19 Crisis Relief Fund. 

RWCF is America’s first nonprofit using the community foundation model to support people in a particular labor segment. We are a community dedicated to making the restaurant industry more hospitable to everyone. In our normal model (prior to the establishment of the crisis relief fund) one third of the funds we raise goes to our own community-building and advocacy efforts, one third to grantmaking to other nonprofits (ones that provide career training, advocate for fair wage policies and worker rights, or provide services for restaurant workers related to gender and racial equity, and mental health and substance abuse) and one third is allocated to an impact investing fund, with which we aim to positively affect worker rights in the industry. 


Ascendus is a nonprofit small business lender working to create economic opportunity by providing entrepreneurs with access to the capital and the business support they need to create and grow healthy enterprises and contribute to thriving local economies. Since 1991, Ascendus has provided more than $200 million to 25,000 small businesses owners across the country.

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