COVID-19 relief law will send you a check. If you’re able, pay it forward — now

The nation’s food pantries are being overrun even as resources run dry.

The extraordinary $2 trillion coronavirus relief package approved by Congress and signed by Donald Trump will offer help to individual Americans, small business, cities and states, hospitals, U.S. industry, and more. The most immediate effect will come in the form of a $1,200 payment going to nearly all Americans (those with incomes up to $75,000, phasing out for incomes of $99,000) and $2,400 for married couples (with incomes up to $150,000).

If you can, take some of that money and donate it to those who need it most. But don’t wait for the check — do it now.

This message isn’t aimed at those who already have lost jobs (such as the 3.28 million Americans in the latest report, a number that is likely higher and will grow in coming weeks). Millions more probably will lose jobs soon in the coming recession, with restaurants, retail stores, and anything related to the hospitality industry either temporarily closing or going out of business. Young workers in the service sector will be those hardest hit.

Nor is it aimed at those who are still employed but who will be forced to take pay cuts. Analysts in some industries such as advertising and marketing are calling for voluntary 40% pay cuts for executives and other white-collar workers. CEOs and other top executives in some industries, such as airlines and hotels, have already cut their salaries or are donating their entire paychecks, even though their total compensation remains generous. Even the heroes in the medical field who are on the front lines of caring for COVID-19 patients, such as doctors and paramedics in Cincinnati, may be facing 20% pay cuts.

All of those folks, especially those who find themselves out of work, will welcome the $1,200 government check. They still need to pay the rent or the mortgage and buy groceries to feed their families, which is a lot harder with no money coming in.

No, this message is for those of you for whom getting that check won’t make that much difference. Those who are working from home and are still on full salary. Retirees getting Social Security and perhaps (if they’re lucky) a pension. They won’t need that $1,200 for immediate needs. But nonprofits serving those hit hardest by the COVID-19 recession do.

Food pantries across the country are being hit with a triple whammy: Fears of COVID-19 contagion means they have fewer volunteers than usual, especially as many of those volunteers are retirees and thus fall into the category of those most vulnerable. Monetary and food donations have dropped off, especially those from corporate America. Grocery stores, which usually donate excess food, don’t have as much to donate, as people across America are clearing grocery shelves.

The food pantry run by our church has developed a “drive-through” method so that volunteers can just hand boxes to people in their cars, limiting the chance of contagion. People arriving by public transportation receive boxes of food on the sidewalk.

The number of those facing hunger issues is growing exponentially, just like the number of cases of those infected with the coronavirus. According to a story from The Washington Post:

“Not in my lifetime has there been a precedent for this,” said Catherine D’Amato, chief executive of the Greater Boston Food Bank, which is servicing two coronavirus hot spots, Boston and Pittsfield, Mass. “We know how to respond to fires, earthquakes, floods. There isn’t a playbook for this.” …

School closures, job disruptions, lack of paid sick leave and the coronavirus’s disproportionate effect on older adults and low-income families have further contributed to the demands placed on food banks.

Those $1,200 checks from the COVID-19 relief package will arrive before too long, especially for those with direct deposit already recorded with the IRS for tax refunds. Others will be mailed checks, likely by sometime in May at the latest. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin estimated that the first payments could start in three weeks.

Food pantries can’t wait until May — too many families are facing food insecurity and shortages now. Those organizations helping the homeless can’t wait that long, either.

If you can’t spare the cash, here’s another idea: Donate blood. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a shortage of blood, and many planned blood drives have been canceled. Check the Red Cross website to find a donation site near you.

Or maybe you’re a home sewer or crafter. With the shortage of N95 masks for hospitals workers and first responders, many are having to make do with the next best thing, even if it’s constructed from fabric instead of the nonwoven material that provides the protection of an N95 mask. Groups all over the country have formed to offer video instructions on how to make such masks and how to donate them. They are pitching in at the sewing machine — A Sewing Army, as The New York Times put it. Facebook groups have formed to offer members tips, such as this site, Masks4Medicine.

So thank you to all the medical workers on the front lines taking care of patients. Thank you to all who are volunteering your time to check in on older neighbors. Thank you to grocery store workers who are keeping us fed. Thank you to restaurants offering take-out and delivery (and make sure you tip those food delivery guys well). Thank you to blood donors and mask makers.

Organizations all over the country have started their own relief funds to raise money for nonprofits. In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker enlisted his sister, former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, to run the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund. The governor and his wife made an initial donation of $2 million of their own money, with an additional $2 million from the family foundation (when you’re a billionaire, you can do that).

If you’re able, find a fund in your area and make a donation. And if you can spare anything at all, please donate to your local food pantry.

2 Comments on “COVID-19 relief law will send you a check. If you’re able, pay it forward — now”

  1. Blood donors are really stepping up I understand. I tried to donate and was told to come back in another three weeks when the crowds have thinned out. . .and to make an appt in advance. They urge donors not to show up unannounced, as they will face a lengthy wait time. I thought I’d book on April 15, as the government won’t be squeezing any blood out of me on that date.

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