HELP Fund Guidelines
The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated and its affiliates and subsidiaries (the “Company” or TCFI) have established the Hardship Emergency Lifeline Program Fund (HELP Fund) to financially assist eligible staff members who present compelling evidence of a serious financial hardship as defined below.
The purpose of the fund is to provide grants to qualified staff members who have personally compelling financial needs due to damage or destruction of their housing, a death in the immediate family or basic needs caused by urgent and unexpected circumstances. Grants are designed to provide emergency relief on a one-time basis for situations not likely to reoccur.
The Company has partnered with United Charitable to manage and invest the funds in a non-profit, tax-exempt status. Grant monies will be held and dispersed by United Charitable as approved by the HELP Fund grants committee and per the HELP Fund guidelines.
Financial hardship grant to provide for basic needs such as shelter, food, utilities and/or childcare when a staff member is unable to work or meet these basic needs due to an unexpected emergency situation. Ongoing medical expenses will generally not be considered for grants.
Up to $1,000.00
Urgent or extraordinary expenses as a result of a catastrophe, natural disaster or accident to a primary residence to include “Qualified Disasters” as defined in sections 139(c)(1), (2) and (3) of the IRS Code.
Up to $2,500.00
Death of a Staff Member’s Immediate Family Member
Expenses related to a death in a staff member’s immediate family member (current spouse, child or staff member’s own parent). Grants are intended for travel and funeral-related expenses.
Up to $1,000.00
Death of a Staff Member
In the case of a staff member’s own death, grants are issued directly to a service provider for funeral-related expenses to assist their family.
Up to $1,000.00
For examples of events that are subject to approval, please see Appendix A.
The Help Fund Committee will be presented with grant requests related to the categories listed above, and will be asked to exert exceptional discretion in approving such grants.
The HELP Fund cannot provide grants to non-employees.
The HELP Fund is primarily funded through voluntary, tax deductible contributions from staff members and management of the Company. Additionally, the general public may make donations through the HELP Fund (www.helpfundgrants.org) for the benefit of The HELP Fund. The Company may make periodic contributions at its sole discretion.
Staff Eligibility for Grant Consideration
- Recipients must be actively employed by the Company.
- The staff member must have exhausted all other opportunities for immediate financial assistance.
- The event must be unexpected, unusual, extraordinary and not likely to recur.
- The staff member must provide documentation of the event and why it presents a financial hardship.
- The financial hardship must affect the staff member personally.
- The financial hardship must not be the result of the staff member’s criminal activity, negligence or poor financial planning.
- The financial hardship must not have been caused by a work-related injury.
- Staff members are limited to a maximum of one grant per category per calendar year.
- Staff members may be referred to our Employee Assistance Program and other agencies for assistance based on the situation.
The staff member must provide:
- A description of the cause of the unexpected financial hardship/emergency
- Depending on the financial need, documentation that demonstrates the financial need such as (see Appendix A for example documentation):
- Mortgage/rent statement
- Utility/childcare/grocery bills
- Police report, photos of damaged residence, newspaper or online articles about the event
- Receipts from hotels
- Newspaper or online death notices/obituaries
- Death certificates
- Mortuary bill/funeral home contract showing burial costs/funeral expenses
- Airline receipts
- Attestation of the event and the financial need, as validated by the staff member’s general manager
The Company will validate:
- Staff member’s employment status
- Income statement (by reviewing pay summary in PeopleCenter)
- Loss of income/LOA status
- The General Manager’s review and approval
Not all staff members who qualify will receive grants, as funding may be limited.
Staff members who are ineligible for grants may be referred to the Employee Assistance Program, local food banks, the American Red Cross or a local shelter.
In the event a staff member applying for or receiving a grant misrepresents his or her circumstances, the Company reserves the right to exercise disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
The Fund Committee evaluates, approves and denies requests on a non-discriminatory basis. The HELP Fund Committee is comprised of 3 corporate staff members, the Fund Administrator and the Fund Manager. The Fund Administrator and Fund Manager are non-voting members. The committee members are employees who are not in a position to exercise substantial influence over the employer, such that the committee can be considered to be an independent selection committee. Members of the board of directors, the CEO and the CFO are examples of individuals typically in a position of substantial influence who may not serve on the HELP Fund committee.
The HELP Fund committee members shall fulfill terms of 1 year and may extend their assignment each 12 months. The committee shall be comprised of:
- One member representing Human Resources
- One member representing Finance
- One member representing Operations
HELP Fund committee members must have at least 1 year with the organization and be in good standing. Should a committee member demonstrate behavior, actions or performance not consistent with the spirit or goal of the HELP Fund, the Fund Manager may request to replace the individual with another staff member to fulfill the duties.
At the end of their term, exiting committee members may nominate a replacement candidate. The remaining committee member plus the Fund Administrator and Fund Manager will evaluate candidates and submit their top recommendation(s) to the SVP of HR for a final selection.
A member of the Company’s Staff Relations Department will act as the HELP Fund’s Administrator. The Administrator is a non-voting member of the Committee whose primary responsibilities will include:
- Overseeing the application and approval process
- Reviewing applications and removing ineligible applications from consideration based on the program document criteria
- Providing information about other possible sources of assistance or support, such as the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), SSA, SDI, etc.
- Organizing quarterly meetings with the Fund Committee
- Presenting eligible staff members’ applications to the Grant Approval Committee
- Contacting the applicants’ General Managers to communicate grant approvals, requests for additional information and denials
- Providing guidance to the GM as to how the approval/denial should be communicated to the requestor
- Acting as secretary for the HELP Fund meetings and documenting the decisions of the Fund committee
- Requesting grant distributions and coordinating such distributions with United Charitable
- Organizing, producing, and distributing communication materials concerning the HELP Fund
- Implementing fundraising drives
- Managing the HELP Fund email inbox (firstname.lastname@example.org) and direct phone line (818-880-5791).
Grant distributions will be sent by United Charitable to the individual or vendor as directed by the HELP Fund Committee.
A member of the company’s Human Resources team will act as the HELP Fund manager. The manager is a non-voting member of the Committee whose primary responsibilities will include:
- Overall direction of HELP Fund marketing, branding and fundraising efforts
- Working with United Charitable to direct investment vehicles
- Attending quarterly meetings
- Assessing HELP Fund performance and making recommendations for enhancements and changes
Staff members who meet the eligibility criteria and who have a need must:
- Complete a HELP Fund Application
- To the extent possible, supply receipts or other documentation as needed to validate the need for the request
- Submit evidence of the need of the financial hardship directly to the Committee, including (see Appendix A):
- The staff member’s attestation of their financial situation and need
- Other documentation that demonstrates the financial need
- The HELP Fund Administrator will validate the staff member’s employment and recent payroll
The GM, EKM or department head must verify the need for the grant and the staff member’s employment standing with the Company, and will review eligibility requirements with the requestor. In extreme emergency situations where documents cannot be submitted with the application, the Administrator will follow-up with the staff member and GM, AGM, EKM or department head to obtain alternate means of documenting the application.
“On-Behalf-Of” peer nominations will also be accepted. If the nominated request is approved, the Administrator will ask the staff member to provide the documentation required for payment. The same application process applies for these requests.
Requestors must agree to hold the Company, restaurant management, the Administrator or any member of the Fund Committee harmless for handling their request whether it is approved or denied. A release will be sent to the staff member to gain permission to tell their story (name omitted upon request) for future communication purposes.
Review and Approval Process
The Fund Administrator will review all incoming applications and screen requests for eligibility. Once an eligible application is received, the Administrator will contact the HELP Fund committee members to meet/review requests. In the case when a non-qualified grant application is received, the Fund Administrator will contact the restaurant GM/EKM to inform them that the application will not be considered.
The HELP Fund Committee will review applications (via email, in person or by telephone) for the purpose of approving or denying requests as soon as practicable. In the event further information or documentation is required, the Fund Administrator will coordinate contacting the grant requester.
A quorum of voting Committee members must approve a request. Decisions on grant approvals must be approved by committee majority and documented by the Fund Administrator.
The Fund Committee must handle requests in a professional manner and without bias.
Distribution of Grants
The committee will make an effort to turn around responses as soon as practicable, based on the receipt of the request. In some cases, payment may be made directly to the vendor/agency to which the money is owed. When payment is made to a vendor, we may need the vendor to complete a W-9. The staff member, along with the Administrator, will work together to gather this information. When a check is sent to the vendor or agency, a release is sent to gain permission to use their name for future communication purposes.
Staff members and management are offered the opportunity to voluntarily contribute to the HELP Fund. Contributions made to the HELP Fund are made with after-tax dollars. As the HELP Fund is a public charity, contributions may be claimed as tax deductible when filing annual 1040 returns.
Voluntary Payroll Deduction from Staff and Management
Staff members may contribute on a recurring basis through regular payroll deductions. Those wishing to contribute may do so through People Center. Any contribution to the HELP Fund is purely voluntary and participants may start or suspend recurring contributions at any time. Funds will be wired to United Charitable on a bi-weekly basis.
One-time Lump Sum Donation
Anyone wishing to contribute a one-time lump sum donation to the HELP Fund may do so on the HELP Fund donation page at www.helpfundgrants.org.
Communication to increase HELP Fund awareness may include:
- Posters and brochures
- Program description in all staff member handbooks
- Slice newsletter articles highlighting examples of how the HELP Fund has helped staff members
- Information and documentation links on the portal for management staff
- Information on Scoops Live, My North Star, and Table 43 for hourly staff
- Other avenues available to staff members and managers, company-wide
United Charitable will provide regular financial reports to the HELP Fund Administrator to provide to the Finance department for monitoring and evaluating purposes. Periodically, the Company will evaluate the effectiveness of the Fund to determine its value and financial viability. The Company may make changes or revisions to the Fund as necessary.