The coronavirus pandemic has led to sweeping protocols that have upended life as we know it. States have been put on lockdown to curb the spread of the virus, closing down industries and businesses. Due to increasing unemployment, the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service released stimulus checks to more than 88 million people as part of a historic $2 trillion economy package to help those in need.
The stimulus package essentially aims to help American families and businesses get through the coronavirus crisis and includes stimulus checks, expanded unemployment benefits, paid sick leave, temporary student debt relief, and more.
The direct stimulus checks amount to $1,200, which are certainly welcome in the face of mounting bills and expenses. However, a number of people who continue to earn an income during the crisis have decided to send their stimulus checks to COVID-19 support organizations and other people in need.
Kent Chambers, a math teacher at Bob Jones High School in Madison, Alabama, continues to work but knows that some of his students are struggling financially. As a married couple, Chambers and his wife Pat $2,400 and decided to give away part of their stimulus checks.
He said, “I’m actually in better shape because I’m not having to pay for gas to drive to work and I’m still getting paid exact same amount. There’s no need for me to take the money and splurge and do something reckless with the money. Let’s help somebody that really needs it.”
The couple anonymously paid $600 for the utility bills of three students, which zeroes out their balance and covers utility expenses for a little more than two months. Another $600 was donated to the burn care center at Shriners Hospital for Children in Cincinnati, which cared for a niece who was hurt in a house fire.
The Chambers are also propping up local businesses, even paying for gym membership even though the gym is shuttered due to coronavirus restrictions.
Many others are reaching out to struggling companies and families. Direct Relief, which has been providing medical to health care workers since January, has seen an increase in donations despite the current economic turmoil. The organization has delivered 1.1 million surgical and N95 masks, 1.5 million gloves, and other protective equipment to various hospitals since January.
Direct Relief spokesman Tony Morain said, “We’ve seen all sorts of creative and inspiring ways that people have stepped up to help others. I think a lot of people want to make a difference right now.”
He added, “The truth is a lot of people need this money to get through the day, to get through the month, so we wouldn’t expect to see a lot of this coming to Direct Relief but obviously we’re deeply grateful for those who are able to give.”
Those who have donated their stimulus checks to Direct Relief and other similar organizations include software engineer Kevin Chieppo. He gave $900 from his payment to Direct Relief and the remaining amount to a grassroots Massachusetts fund for groups that help the homeless, undocumented workers, low-income renters, and other at-risk communities.
Chieppo did a lot of research on which organizations to donate to, and asked Facebook friends for suggestions as well. “I wanted to get rid of the money as fast as possible to where it was needed. I’m working and there’s a lot of people that are filing for unemployment now and I sympathize with that. You know, I’ve been unemployed before and it’s not easy. It’s not an easy time for anybody,”
He added, “I just didn’t feel right getting extra money and just not doing anything with it when a lot of people are struggling.”
In Cleveland, attorney Rebecca Maurer used her stimulus checks to help people in the community. “Just hearing people’s stories, it was very apparent to me that I was in a very lucky position and that I shouldn’t be treating the check as a windfall, but really as an opportunity to give back to my community.”
Maurer supports local businesses and created the Cleveland Stimulus Pledge to encourage similar gift-giving. Since its launch on April 8, around 100 people have taken the pledge and promised to give about $60,000 to local support organizations.
According to Maurer, “What we really wanted to show was the effect of collective donation. So if one person does it, that’s great, but you can have even more impact if you see other people doing the same thing. So Cleveland Stimulus Pledge was just a way to show what we could all do as a community together rather than as individuals.”
Donors can also suggest other organizations and small businesses that need help. Maurer has donated to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, and University Settlement, which helps seniors and families by providing food and other forms of support. She also celebrated getting $20,000 in pledges by donating $20 to about 20 charities on the list.
In Maine, Wendy Blackwell-Moore started a similar online campaign, Pledge My Stimulus, which recognizes the basic truth that “what impacts any one of us, impacts the whole community.” She said, “It’s not really my money, it’s our money. So we need to make sure we get it into the right hands.”
These are just a handful of thousands of people who are donating time, effort, and now their stimulus checks to the less fortunate. Check local sites if you wish to donate your stimulus checks as well.