"To our local bartenders: You've always had our backs, and we promise to always have yours," the whiskey brand said in a statement

By Morgan Raum
March 17, 2020 02:44 PM
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Typically on St. Patrick’s Day, crowds of people would be decked out in green, taking advantage of a wide range of beer specials at the local Irish pub.

But as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread throughout the United States, health officials and governments have made clear that the best way to reduce the number of infections is to start social distancing and canceling large gatherings. Many cities have also started to shut down bars and restaurants.

To help ease the suffering of hospitality workers, Irish whiskey brand Jameson has stepped in and pledged $500,000 to the charity of the United States Bartender’s Guild’s emergency assistance program. They’re also matching donations on the USBG website up to an additional $100,000 until March 31.

“We are facing an unprecedented challenge globally — millions will be affected by COVID-19, including the bartenders and local neighborhood bars who have helped pave the way for Jameson,” said Ann Mukherjee, Chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard North America, in a statement to PEOPLE. “We know there are tough roads ahead, andwe need to do our part to stand behind the community who has shown us such loyalty throughout the years.”

The guild is helping bartenders affected by the virus through its fundraising efforts by allowing bartenders to submit an application for relief, which is secure and will be vetted by trained staff. The charity has existed for five years and all fundraising efforts will go towards individuals in the bar community, bartenders and barbacks alike.

In order to qualify for grant assistance, recipients must be the bartender or the spouse or child of a bartender. A bartender here is defined as an “individual employed in serving beverages or otherwise engaged in the production, promotion or distribution of alcoholic beverages,” and he or she must provide tangible documentation of a lack of certain necessities of life during this time, including “financial, physical, mental, or emotional well being.”

WATCH: Health Officials Call to Action as Coronavirus Continues to Spread

As of March 16, there have been at least 5,002 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 93 deaths in the United States, according to The New York Times. The majority of the cases are in New York, Washington state, and California.

The CDC says the best prevention methods are basic forms of hygiene — careful hand washing, avoiding touching the face, moving away from people who are coughing or sneezing, and staying home at signs of illness.