May 25, 2020 - Health

Charities refocus efforts to fill gaps left by government

People line up A volunteer distributes childcare essentials to families in need for Mother's Day at Food Bank For New York City’s Community Kitchen & Food Pantry.
A volunteer distributes childcare essentials to families in need for Mother's Day at Food Bank For New York City’s Community Kitchen & Food Pantry on May 08. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Food Bank For New York City

Charitable organizations around the U.S. are launching funds or redirecting their everyday efforts to address the needs of people affected by the coronavirus shutdown.

Driving the news: The pandemic has upended lives, with more than 25 million workers on the unemployment rolls. 1.7 million workers were collecting unemployment benefits before U.S. businesses began closing down to stop the spread of the virus.

  • U.S. unemployment filings in each of the last several weeks have dwarfed anything the country has ever seen.
  • School closures across the country have put millions of students who receive free- or reduced-lunch at risk of hunger.
  • Grocers are running out of inventory, with high demand crippling supply chains.
  • Thousands of undergraduate students have been displaced, as many colleges and universities have closed their campuses to stem the spread of COVID-19.

What's happening: $2.2 trillion in government stimulus spending to mitigate workers' loss of income is outpacing any other period in American history, but social service advocates say Congress' plan for a one-time payment to all Americans is too small and excludes too many. Much of the burden of providing relief has fallen on charities and the public.

  • A Global Giving fund aimed at sending first responders to communities in need and getting medical equipment to hospitals has raised nearly $900,000 for hospitals in the U.S. and around the world.
  • GiveDirectly has partnered with Fresh EBT, an app that allows food stamp recipients to track their spending, is giving $1,000 to each of 100,000 randomly selected Fresh EBT users.
  • The CDC Foundation is raising money to deploy emergency health care staffing, develop education and awareness campaigns, increase lab capacity, and boost clinical research.
  • Feeding America, the largest hunger-relief organization in the U.S., has seen a 70% increase on average of people seeking help from food banks during the pandemic, according to a spokesperson. The organization started a COVID-19 response fund, which has provided more than $124 million in grants to U.S. and Puerto Rico food banks.

Yes, but: The virus has complicated relief efforts, as many volunteers have stayed home in an effort to follow social distancing guidelines from health officials.

  • "For decades, American nonprofits have relied on a cadre of volunteers who — quite suddenly — aren’t able to show up. With millions staying home during the pandemic, charities that help the country’s neediest are finding themselves in need," writes the AP.

Go deeper: Coronavirus leads to new giving and volunteering

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