Sheltering in place and social distancing have been taxing on our personal and emotional lives, but for many who can’t work from home, the impact of the coronavirus is completely calamitous. It’s easy to dismiss this time in history as a bizarre fluke or a meme-able few months, but it’s likely that our economy will take a serious hit in the wake of this disaster. On a larger level, this situation is certainly horrific — but on a local level, the devastation is even more real.
Luckily, we’re not totally hopeless. Your go-to bars, dining places, shops, and such might be temporarily shuttered, but there are things you can do to help out. We’ve put together a few simple suggestions to help local businesses thrive during these tough times and make sure things can return to normal in your neighborhood.
Look, it’s not the most intelligent solution to the broad and sweeping problems created by the coronavirus, but it’s certainly a direct action you can take. Many independently-owned bars and stores have set up emergency relief funds for their staff members. If you can afford it, any money contributed to these types of fundraisers is going directly to helping the workers who are most immediately impacted by the shutdown. Considering many state unemployment websites have crashed due to being bombarded by newly out-of-work citizens, this is perhaps the quickest way certain subsets of workers can get relief.
Read more: How Harlem Hops is Giving Back
We get it — local politics often feel banal at best. But the truth of the matter is local politicians — governors, mayors, state representatives — have a lot of say in what goes on in our daily lives. Now would be a great time to contact them and let them know that their constituents are largely in favor of things like rent freezes, health insurance reforms, and emergency aid to the most vulnerable populations. These things will greatly benefit the workers who are suffering the most as their places of employment remain closed.
Frighteningly, one of the biggest impacts of COVID-19 is that not only are more traditional employees, like bar-backs, shopkeepers, and booksellers, finding themselves lacking work, but entertainers of all kinds are suddenly without spaces to perform. Musicians, comedians, drag performers, DJs, dancers, and more rely on local economies to make money, and because they’re often paid in cash, they’re not even eligible for government assistance programs when the work dries up.
Stay safe out there! “Hands… washing hands..” 🎶 pic.twitter.com/QaRB1qZshp
— Neil Diamond (@NeilDiamond) March 22, 2020
But artists are, by their very nature, a creative bunch and have taken to livestreaming services like YouTube, Facebook Live, IGTV, and Twitch to broadcast shows from home. Most of these performers are smart enough to also include their Venmo, PayPal, or Cash App accounts in these performances. It’s your job as a responsible consumer to tip these artists because, at this moment, it might be the only way they can make any money at all.
This won’t apply to every local business, but many hometown stores are coming up with new and clever ways to keep operating without their brick-and-mortar locations staying open. If a favorite shop of yours has an online presence, see what they’re selling on the net, and buy away! You’re probably saving a lot of money because you’re eating out less nowadays anyway, and you might as well splurge on some new books, handmade goods, or artisanal products that otherwise seemed too expensive before the shutdowns.
Consider gift cards, too! While stores might not be open right now, this isn’t bound to last forever — and if you can help shops stay afloat by paying them now for business later, now’s a good time to do so.
We’re all nervous and definitely on edge, but that doesn’t give you a pass to be rude. If you have to go to a grocery store or any other essential service, remember that the employees are under immense amounts of stress and are likely to be drastically underpaid. “Please” and “thank you” go a long way toward helping us all feel sane.
If you can keep your mind away from the brain-numbing effects of social isolation, there are certain pleasures to be had in the Seamless-and-chill lifestyle. Cooking for yourself is fun, but — especially right now — there’s nothing wrong with calling your favorite restaurant and getting their goods delivered right to your door. This is a great way to keep your spirits up but also keeps cash flowing into businesses that really could be hurting right now.
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That being said, if you’re going to indulge, now’s the time to give more money than normal to the delivery workers and restaurant staff that make sure you’re eating great. These hardworking cooks and delivery people are risking their health for your convenience, and you can thank them with your cold hard cash. If you’re picking up to-go food, remember to tip the people you pick the food up from, too.
The truth of the matter is that local businesses have a hard time operating year-round, even when there isn’t a pandemic destroying our social lives. We should all remember that advocating for our favorite local places doesn’t have to stop once our lives return to normal. Aim to be politically active, and consider voting for politicians who want to raise the minimum wage, curtail landlord power, and protect workers’ rights all year round.
This also goes for responsible consumerism in general. It has certainly become easy to rely on sites like Amazon or Walmart to deliver pretty much anything to your door at any given moment. But local economies are important, too, and if you can afford to pay a few extra dollars for books or household goods or clothes, it’ll be a huge boon to businesses that need your money.
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