It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of a global pandemic. But there’s a meaningful contribution many of us can make from the safety of our homes: Donate your stimulus check. As someone who is currently economically stable and who always benefits from structural privilege, I believe it is my responsibility to redistribute my check to people most at-risk of disease and facing intense financial hardship.
I’ll admit, $1,200 is tempting. I’m a recent grad with significant student loans and am currently making less than minimum wage as an AmeriCorps volunteer. But I’m in a comparatively good position right now; I can work from home and am not supporting anyone beside myself. If things go further south, I have savings and family members who will help me out in a pinch. Even in a difficult job market my four-year college degree will carry me far.
The privileges I enjoy aren’t based on merit but on my background. I come from a white, upper-middle class family that provides me access to generational wealth, professional connections and many other advantages. Now more than ever, I’m reminded that others aren’t so fortunate. The COVID-19 crisis has, unsurprisingly, exacerbated existing inequities within our economic system. Though Black Americans comprise 13% of the US population, they make up a third of all national coronavirus hospitalizations. Low-wage workers in industries such as food service and retail are more likely to face economic hardship from fewer hours and layoffs. Women make up 76% of the healthcare workforce, risking exposure at the frontlines of fighting this disease.
When I give, my donations are not charity, but a demonstration of solidarity.
The federal government is not responding to COVID-19 with an eye to these disparities. $1,200 to every tax-paying American (with income restrictions) may be apportioned equally, but truly equitable relief would prioritize those hit hardest by the pandemic and impending recession. It also leaves behind millions of Americans who do not qualify for stimulus checks because they are undocumented, homeless, unbanked, or make too little money to file taxes, among other reasons.
There are many places to send money right now, but I’m looking as local as possible. I live in the Whittier neighborhood of Minneapolis where among my neighbors, 77% are renters, 41% non-white, 21% foreign born, 26% transit-only riders and 29% earning below the poverty line. While Whittier works to set up a neighborhood fund, I’m giving to Twin Cities-specific funds for immigrant families, restaurant workers, artists, and people held in jail on bail.
When I give, my donations are not charity, but a demonstration of solidarity. I’m saying to my friends, neighbors and community members who are struggling: I see you, I understand that this affects you differently than me, and I stand with you.