As of writing this, there have been a lot of changes in the last few days concerning Coronavirus in the United States.
Events have been cancelled. Schools shut down. And for some reason, people are really afraid of pooping and having nothing to wipe with.
Life will be drastically different for the vast majority of people, but it will disproportionately affect certain populations more than others.
I’m not going to talk about the health aspects. I’m not a health expert. There’s been enough said on that topic. And the CDC, WHO, and your local authorities will have better information.
I’m going to talk about the personal economic impact it will take on a lot of people, along with how you can help.
How Coronavirus Will Affect Livelihoods
As events are cancelled, travel is limited, businesses are shut down, and people are staying home, most industries will be negatively impacted, which directly affects jobs. Hourly-wage workers in the restaurant, retail, entertainment, travel, and many other sectors will be facing unpaid leave in the next few weeks.
With schools shutting down, parents face the difficult dilemma of paying for childcare or staying home from work, often unpaid.
Some of us, like myself, have the privilege of working from home and spending time with our kids. But our family needs to be careful and check that privilege before calling this an “opportunity” or “blessing.”
What we have is a result of undeserved privilege, and we need to use that to help those who experience extreme hardship during this period of self-quarantine and social distancing.
Help with Food
There are several problems that arise with food. The first is simply not being able to afford it. Hourly or contract workers who are out of a job for the next few weeks will be without income, making it financially difficult to eat. While trying to pay other bills, food will most likely be the first budget to cut. As mentioned earlier, low-income families may have children who receive free breakfast and lunch at school. These 2 extra meals daily will put a financial strain on the family. Food banks and soup kitchens are also running low on supplies, jeopardizing those who rely on them to get fed.
If you personally know families who are in this position, you can help by gifting them with groceries. Have groceries delivered to their home through a shipping service, or buy extra food and drop it off at their door. You can also help them save face by not asking if they need anything – just do it. And also don’t let them know it’s from you – just drop it off anonymously. As for food banks and soup kitchens – donate money. During this crisis, they need the flexibility to buy what is necessary for the people they serve.
The other issue is those who are unable to go shopping. We all know that grocery stores are running low on supplies and will have to attempt more shopping runs in the coming weeks. But people who are most vulnerable to the virus – the elderly and those with medical conditions – can’t risk going out in public. It’s just too dangerous. If you have neighbors who are elderly or people you know, offer to go shopping for them.
Help with Finances
Some of us are privileged to not be affected financially by the Coronavirus. My wife is a teacher and will continue to get paid while schools are shut down. I work remotely, so will continue to work from home and get paid as normal. Many others will not have this luxury.
Business owners are already facing having to close shop for good due to the lack of customers. Others will be out of a job, and a few weeks of missed income can be detrimental for many.
For those who have expendable wealth, this is the time to step up and be generous. Think of people in your community who would struggle financially, and just give cash in an envelope anonymously. If you don’t know of anyone, ask your friends if they know of anyone.
There’s no tax-deductible receipt and no thank you. Just the satisfaction of doing the right thing for other people in a time of extreme need.
Help with Childcare
Schools across the nation are closing down for several weeks – and for some, through the rest of the school year. This puts parents in a sudden dilemma they were not prepared for.
Parents now have to figure out childcare for their kids. Most daycare centers will already be fully booked, or have shut down in conjunction with local schools. But it’s also extremely expensive if they find one. Personal babysitters are even more expensive. Those who manage to afford this are going to be hit pretty hard financially, if not start going into debt.
For the parents that can’t afford childcare, they are left with the option of trying to take their kids to work. This isn’t a very likely scenario as most employers won’t allow it, but even if they do, it’s not an ideal situation for anyone. What parents will have to do instead is take time off work to care for their children. All the sick days and paid vacation days – if they have any – won’t cover the time their children are out of school. These parents will have to end up taking unpaid time off which puts further strain on an already stressful time.
If you know families in this situation, here’s what you can do. If you have time off work or are working from home, and already watching your kids, offer to watch their kids also, even if it’s just one day a week. If you’re hiring a babysitter, offer to have that babysitter watch their kids as well. You can either split the cost with them, or be generous and just cover them. If you and other parents are all in a work-from-home situation, offer to rotate watching each others kids.
Yes, I know these scenarios go against social distancing, but there’s a balance between staying healthy and also paying the bills. Limit the number of kids together and just use an over-abundance of sanitary caution.
Also, if you’re in a position where you can afford a babysitter, hire babysitters. A lot of people who work hourly or gig jobs, and are out of a job now, are looking to babysitting as a way to cover their bills for the next few weeks. Look in your social circles for people you can hire.
Help with Emotional Health
For some people, being quarantined to your home for a few weeks is a dream come true. But for a lot of people, it’s very difficult, even dangerous.
The epidemic itself, along with all the challenges that come associated with it, is already a source of anxiety for most people. Yet those who suffer from depression, addiction, bipolar disorder, and other emotional health issues will find this time especially difficult. People need people, and isolation for the next few weeks will be rough.
Reach out to others. Check in on how they’re doing. Text or DM people. FaceTime each other and have group chats with multiple people. If you’re a gamer, play online together. Watch the same Netflix shows at the same time and chat about it afterwards. Use whatever technology is at your disposal to stay connected – now more than ever is the time to go to your screens.
If possible meet one-on-one in person or small groups. This is where you have to determine for yourself the health risk of going against social distancing. But if someone is alone and poses a threat to themselves – that is also a health risk. Do what’s best to keep your friends and family healthy, both physically and mentally.
The health risks that Coronavirus present are serious. But so are the financial and social consequences related to trying to mitigate the spread.
If you’re going to do ok these next few weeks, it’s time to step up for those who aren’t.
Convey calm in an environment of panic. Speak hope in an atmosphere of despair. Be generous in the presence of hoarding. Show compassion in the midst of struggle. Take responsibility in the place of privilege.