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Ben Jealous-led coronavirus relief fund raises $1 million for working families

A coronavirus relief fund created by former NAACP president and Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous has raised more than $1 million for working families.

The fund, named the “The Mamie and Jerome Todd Relief Fund” after Jealous’ maternal grandparents, has distributed $550,000 so far to four organizations that support workers in Baltimore’s restaurant and hospitality industries and their families, Jealous said.

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The first organizations to receive funding include: UNITE HERE Local 7 Education and Support Relief Fund; Food With a Focus; Casa de Maryland, and Keys Development.

Jealous said he got the idea for the fund after hearing from union leader Roxie Herbekian, president of UNITE HERE Local 7, who told him in Baltimore 95% of the unionized hotel and restaurant employees have been laid off in the past 10 weeks.

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Jealous turned to a list of contacts he’s developed over the years ― through his roles as NAACP president, a partner at the investment firm Kapor Capital and as the Democratic nominee for Maryland governor ― and asked for help building a fund for such workers. He said donations immediately started coming in. Some donations were large, while others were as low as $2.50.

“Working families in Baltimore, especially those working jobs like my grandfather did during the Great Depression are among the most vulnerable right now,” Jealous said. His grandfather was a unionized dishwasher in Baltimore during the Great Depression. “The federal response to this crisis has been inadequate and left state and local leaders struggling to meet the needs of our most vulnerable populations."

Herbekian said the money will “go a long way to keep workers and their families afloat” and pledged “one hundred percent of the money will be used to aid Baltimore’s hospitality workers and their families.”

Nearly 50,000 Marylanders have been infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and 2,200 have died. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Marylanders have lost their jobs due to shutdowns of businesses designed to slow the spread of the disease.

Jealous has said he is considering another run for governor in 2022.

Jealous lost his bid for the governor’s mansion in 2018 to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. With nearly 1.3 million ballots cast in his favor, Hogan earned the most votes ever by any Maryland governor. Jealous garnered more than 1 million votes, the third-highest vote total for a gubernatorial candidate in state history.

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