Disclaimer: this article doesn’t cover everything that can or should be done, or is available. It focuses on two specific opportunities and while it doesn’t claim to be comprehensive, it is provides a subset that can be viably implemented, replicated, and expanded.
The biggest opportunity the current crises of COVID-19 provides, is of reflection. And hopefully, once the dust settles, the reflection allows for more community service and contribution than we usually are able to make time for. Two high need areas to target for during (and post) pandemic assistance are:
1. Goods and services assistance to the health (or exposure) high risk and 2. Economic assistance to the financially most vulnerable
Goods and services assistance envelope ensuring groceries and other essentials reach those who would be at high risk in their attempts to venture out for the same, or have to be in high exposure conditions without appropriate protections. This bucket of assistance is relatively easier to solicit for and to receive because: a. they are required more immediately -at a time when the crises is on everyone’s mind (akin to clothing and food donations to disaster victims); b. these are easier to provide; and c. provide tangible, instant, gratification. They are also needed more visibly. Below are some ways to serve this need for the current crises.
1. Pod mapping and local Facebook groups. I lot of communities have now started mutual aid groups (mostly via. Facebook). For e.g. there, is a Phoenix Mutual Aid Facebook group collecting volunteers and coordinating assistance.
2. Neighborhood assistance. Good old checking on your neighbors (doesn’t need to be as formalized or organized as above) and assisting as per their needs. For example, several folks are posting on Facebook and Whats App groups for their neighborhood asking if anyone needs anything during or offering up surplus supplies in response to specific asks. Similarly, the area we stay in are high in assisted and elderly living facilities. An easy way is to call them and offer to assist in shopping for their residents or drop off supplies as per pre-solicited lists.
3. Donations to local food banks (use Feeding America to find local food banks, shop 10% extra for essentials during weekly runs, donate – repeat for next run). Note: this is actually an highly effective and needed way during the COVID crises as multiple articles have reported regular folks unable to find supplies turning to food banks.
The second bucket: economic assistance to the financially vulnerable (and ensuring that more and more folks don’t become financially vulnerable) is a much harder task. It is also a higher need, for it will have a cascading and circular effect. The sectors most immediately affected by Social Distancing measures disproportionately employ low wage workers. Also, low wage, daily wage, and gig workers, more often than not, lack padding of savings or disposable income needed for surviving such crises. Overlapping this population with those who would be hit with (or have existing) high expenses (children, elderly to care for, funeral, or personal or family health) gives the highest priority assist list. So far, below are the provisions and mechanisms available for assistance for those facing employment loss or reduction.
1. State Departments of Economic Security (e.g, the Arizona DES programs are listed here)
2. Local and corporate Initiatives (e.g. New York Employee Retention Grant program, Amazon’s initiative in Seattle)
3. Donating to an organization or agency using your corporate grant program for their rent relief to homeless, essential supplies in shortage, or general funding needs. Here are some AZ organizations and details of their programs and needs: New Leaf AZ essential donations list, Homeward Bound AZ. Note: several such donations qualify for corporate matching programs and dollar to dollar tax credit.
Lastly, the stimulus bill in consideration will help. However, resources cite previous stimulus bills and current systemic challenges and fear low effectiveness of the bill (in short, the trickle down effect through the businesses, esp. small businesses, to it’s worker bases is expected to be slow, reactive, and not sufficient). Most importantly, the sub segment (out of the economically vulnerable who are facing delayed, reduced, or eliminated wages) of those who will have high immediate expenses due to ongoing or emerging crises will need salvaging. These are people with families with ill children, families dealing with sudden health crises and so on.
For expanding the above lists to your state or region, search for local non-profits in your area, and contact them to understand what needs are they specifically looking at.
Out of the two segments I outlined as target, Of the identified highest priority/most vulnerable segment that is affected by COVID, I am going to open a crowdfunding/gofundme page for specifically single moms and pregnant women who are effected by COVID unemployment wave and have urgent or consistent bills to be paid.
There are several crowdfunding pages in flight, contribute to one. Or if you have a specific passion, consider setting up a crowdfunding on your own, some ideas are listed below.
Supporting monthly rent or mortgage payments for impacted folks
To fund paid sick time for those who are affected by COVID-19
Crisis pay for folks who aren’t sick but are out of work
Other expenses folks impacted are struggling to pay
Let’s spread some love in the times of Corona.