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Give your stimulus payment to those in greater need

Republicans and Democrats recognize that, at the end of November, 10.7 million people remained unemployed due largely to COVID-19. While politicians continue to argue over further COVID-related relief, the fact is that President Trump signed legislation last week that has three immediate features.

First, stimulus payments of $600 per person (including dependents under 18) are going to households earning under $150,000 for a two-adult household. Second, it’s extending reduced unemployment bonus payments of $300 per week for 10 weeks. Third, it’s extending eviction protection for an additional month.

Yet, like every plan authored by humans, questions remain.

Are all who lost their jobs to COVID-19 shutdowns going to get these benefits? The answer is no. The IRS itself says that 9 million eligible recipients never received the first round of $1,200 Stimulus payments. These same folks are at risk of missing the second round.

Has everyone who is getting a stimulus payment been financially impacted by COVID-19? Again, no. COVID-19 impacts have not been equally felt among Americans. Those who retained their jobs are far less impacted — some have done well — even as tens-of-thousands sought food parcels and are terrified of being evicted or losing their homes to foreclosure.

So, if we’re truly in this together to fight the COVID War as a united nation, what can ordinary Americans do to respond to this imperfect legislation?

If you are one of those who’s lost your job, by all means use the funds and eviction protection as you see fit. But, if you’re one of the millions who still work or get uninterrupted retirement income, please display American solidarity and consider any of these possible personal responses. (These ideas are not meant to be exhaustive.)

Perhaps you’ve been touched by images of thousands of cars waiting for hours to get food to combat the hunger induced by COVID-related unemployment. If that’s your concern, donate all or part of your stimulus check to a local food pantry.

If the sight of the homeless sleeping in doorways or living in tents through this winter season is troubling, consider donating your stimulus payment to a local homeless shelter.

Perhaps you’re troubled by the alarming increase in domestic violence that’s spiked during COVID-forced isolation. If that’s your concern, donate to a local domestic violence agency.

Our individual contributions will not “solve” all of our countrymen’s woes. Nor will they substitute for the self-protection measures (masking and social distancing) that we need to maintain until enough have been vaccinated for COVID to die its own slow death. But, together, they can make a difference for many families in need.

So, whether you follow the teaching of Moses, Jesus, Mohammad (pbuh), the Buddha (or simply because an ethical life demands compassionate behavior), please — if your means allow — allocate all or a portion of your forthcoming stimulus payments to support your suffering fellow citizens.

Do it for them. Do it for yourself. And do it for whatever you find holy.

Matthew Shulman most recently served as a chaplain at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London. Now retired, he lives in Groton.

 

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