Hard times demand radical changes in how we live. Americans have become really distant from each other over the years, not knowing our neighbors or engaging in local government or in movements that support a healthy community life.
With the coronavirus epidemic, we need to change that. Mutual aid—giving and getting support within our communities, where we are able—is an idea that has surged back into people’s consciousness as the quarantine has grown.
Here’s a list of directories of mutual aid sources, including help for restaurant workers, freelancers, Amazon warehouse workers, delivery and personal service workers, bartenders, and other tipped workers. Here’s instructions on how to start your own mutual aid network, plus resources on how to handle money within those networks and how to manage volunteer efforts.
Some people are taking to social media to organize mutual aid; check out this example from Queens, New York to get an idea of what you and your community could do. Though if you are finding social media stressful right now, try these tips for calmer, mindful social media use.
In case there are internet problems, and to be sure we reach elders and others who may not be as comfortable with technology, it’s useful to create a phone tree to reach people in your community, as well.
If your employer or someone else in your community is engaging in shady or dangerous practices during the outbreak, you may want to reach out to the press, or organize with your co-workers to protect yourselves. Here are some tools you can use to protect your communication when you organize. Coworker.org can also help support you. And if you need to securely reach out to journalists, here’s a list of news outlets that use SecureDrop, which will help protect your identity. Globaleaks has even more places worldwide that can support you blowing the whistle.
If you’re frustrated by how your workplace has responded to COVID, you can also let this group of union members know to get started organizing; however, that form doesn’t appear to protect your personal information more than a Google document normally does.
Some parts of our communities are already more vulnerable, and will suffer more than others. Food banks for those who can’t afford groceries because they’re out of work are already taking a hit, and could use your support.
Together We Rise, an organization supporting kids in foster care, has put together projects you can do at home to help out foster youth, who may be kept away from their families longer, moved to new housing even during the crisis, or having a harder time getting the educational support they need.
Keep an eye on news about state and federal budgets. Call your representatives if they’re trying to cut funding for Medicare, Social Security, public housing, education, SNAP, and other supports for the most vulnerable among us. Let them know you won’t stand for cuts that hurt your neighbors.
There are also voices demanding change from our elected officials, so that as budgets are rolled out and laws passed, we protect fair elections, healthcare, and resources for communities. Check out Indivisible’s call for better healthcare protection and for economic relief directly to the people, not corporations.
An increasing number of Americans will lose their healthcare during this crisis, and may need to buy their insurance from state marketplaces. Speaking from personal experience: I’ve used the state insurance marketplace, they’re horribly hard to use, affordable plans are accepted almost nowhere, and then in the middle of the pandemic they tried to cancel my insurance AND my sister’s family’s insurance over bureaucratic errors. It was terrifying. Nobody deserves to go through that. To fight for universal healthcare—something almost every other developed country in the world already has!—get involved in the Medicare For All movement. And to fight for fairer pricing of medical procedures check out Clear Health Costs.
Just as communities organized drives to collect resources like scrap metal and paper during the World Wars, there are drives to get resources to the healthcare workers who are on the front lines of defending our communities against the virus. This time, what they need is personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, gloves, and hospital gowns. GetUsPPE and Mask Match are among the best-organized efforts. There are even people organizing to produce ventilators, and sharing specifications of how those need to work.
Deep thanks to Peter Rugh, John Tarleton, and Leia-Lee Doran from The Indypendent for gathering many of the sources for this article.