Do you have a small business or restaurant that's closed or constrained because of the coronavirus? Or are you doing OK and wondering how you can help others who aren't? Projects have sprung up all over the country to help both small businesses and front-line workers who are facing hard times these days, and it's really easy to pitch in.
This may sound odd, but so far, I'm feeling lucky during the current crisis. I'm already accustomed to working at home, and none of my current projects seem to be affected by the pandemic, at least not yet. I and my family are all healthy and safe, and my friends who have the coronavirus seem to be getting through it.
I know it's not that way for everyone. People are losing friends and family members. Hospital workers and first responders are battling a tidal wave of cases, doing whatever they can to help everyone who needs it. And many small businesses have been forced to close their doors or drastically scale back and lay off employees.
If you're like me, you may be wondering what you can do to help. If so, here are some easy ways to pitch in.
1. Post your favorite small business on Help Main Street.
Nihal Mehta, founding general partner of the VC firm Eniac Ventures, got together with Nabeel Alamgir, co-founder of restaurant ordering app Lunchbox, along with some volunteer coders, and they created the website Help Main Street. The concept is simple: Any small business that sells gift cards can be listed on the site and customers or other supporters can buy gift cards online. That gives the business an immediate cash infusion, even if it's closed or curtailed due to the coronavirus. More than 10,000 businesses have signed up so far, and some locations, such as Hoboken, New Jersey, have created pages for their local businesses.
It's easy to list your own business on the site and easy to suggest a business that you think should be there (they will contact the business in question). If your business doesn't offer gift cards, they provide some guidance to help you start through Square, which was selected because it's very easy to use. This is an all-volunteer effort with proceeds going direct to the small business in need. Think of it as instant microlending.
I first learned about Help Main Street and other efforts on the small-business episode of the Covid-19 response webcast that runs simultaneously on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter at 2 p.m. Eastern daily. It's hosted by social-media guru Sree Sreenivasan and is well worth checking out.
2. Help Airbnb find lodging for hospital workers and first responders.
Airbnb announced on Thursday that it is helping to find temporary lodging for 100,000 first responders, health care workers, and relief workers who need a place to stay, either so that they can be closer to their jobs or because they want to stay separated from their families due to infection fears. Because first responders and health care workers are at a higher risk of infection, these guests need an entire separate dwelling to stay in, such as a guest house or otherwise empty home.
You can help by hosting someone, if you have an appropriate space and feel comfortable doing so--Airbnb offers detailed instructions on how to disinfect the dwelling to keep everyone safe. If that doesn't work, consider making a donation to help pay for lodging for these vital workers. Your donation goes to one of Airbnb's partner organizations in this effort, the International Rescue Committee, International Medical Corps, or International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. These groups will use the funds to pay for lodging for health care workers and first responders with Airbnb hosts. Airbnb is waiving all fees for this effort.
3. Send a free meal to hospital workers.
The upscale New York City restaurant chain Tarallucci e Vino was forced to dramatically scale back operations and lay off most of its 105 employees when restaurants were ordered to only offer takeout. Then a friend of the owners offered to buy 40 meals for New York's hard-hit hospital workers, and the business found a whole new direction.
It created Feed the Frontlines NYC, which uses donations to fund delivery of meals to hardworking and likely exhausted health care workers. Created just 10 days ago, Feed the Frontlines has already raised more than $127,000 and delivered more than 1,200 meals to workers at eight area hospitals and one nursing home.
New York City has been particularly badly affected by coronavirus. More than 7 percent of the world's total cases are in New York State, with most of them in New York City, and the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center is rapidly being transformed into a 1,000-bed hospital. So sending food to the city's overburdened medical staff would be a very good thing to do. But there are also Feed the Frontlines initiatives in Boston and Toronto. And wherever you live, there's likely to be a similar initiative on your community as well.