stimulus money – a modest proposal

(Published in the Providence Journal 12/28/2020)

STIMULUS MONEY – A VERY MODEST PROPOSAL

It appears a second stimulus check will be sent to a majority of Americans. No matter your political view of this government largess you will have a personal decision to make. What will you do with the money?

Last April my wife and I received a total of $2,400 in stimulus money. We used the new Visa card once to activate the account. The majority of the funds remain untouched. We are not 1%rs. We are retired seniors on a fixed income,but, thanks to our long term savings plan we are “comfortable”.

Now more government funds will be sent to us. We’ve done nothing to earn this money. It will not even mean much to our daily lives. However, millions of our fellow citizens are suffering because of the pandemic. The stimulus funds may put needed food on their tables or allow parents to buy winter clothes for their children. These funds will certainly provide some short term help, but rest assured their needs are still plentiful. Even with the vaccine on the way the financial struggles will continue for at least a year.

With apologies to Jonathan Swift, I have a very modest proposal.

Imagine if all Rhode Islanders who can afford it decide to use this new stimulus money to help the less fortunate. Rather than purchasing more “goodies” from Amazon, shop as local as possible. A greater amount of dollars remain in your town when you shop local. Support your locally owned gift shop, book store and hardware store. These are the businesses which most need your direct help. It’s the independent stores which give our region character.

Or, instead of consuming, consider direct contributions to area charitable organizations or specific business categories which are being decimated during this time.

Hospitality workers have been especially burdened by shut downs. A Rhode Island Hospitality Employee Relief Fund to give assistance for those in the restaurant, hotel and tourism industries has been set up at rihospitality.org .

The Rhode Island Community Food Bank, rifoodbank.org , recently reported that the number of people assisted has increased from 50,000 per month to 68,000 and that 1 out of 4 households lack adequate food supplies.

Performance venues have also been hard hit as they continue to have their curtains closed. Their struggles can have a trickle down effect. Trinity Square Theatre traditionally takes up a collection at all “A Christmas Carol” performances and donates the money to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. Last year $60,000 was raised. This year “A Christmas Carol” will be streamed free and while donations will be requested it will impact the amount collected. The Rhode Island Foundation (rifoundation.org) has stepped to the plate and will match every donation made to Trinity up to $60,000. A true lesson in collaborative charity by these organizations.

There are many more local charities which you can find online.

Perhaps there is also a chance to be personally creative in your use of the stimulus money.

School districts are now having to opt for remote learning. While leaders have worked diligently to provide for their students, there are gaps especially in poorer communities. My wife dedicated 3 decades as a teacher and knows the constant needs. Perhaps a call to your local school department would provide some idea of needs. The past stimulus amount of $2,400 could have purchased a few Chrome books for students.

So, my very modest proposal. Rather than scrolling Amazon for something to buy, please consider how powerful it would be if thousands of Rhode Islanders decided to dedicate these funds to a better cause. My sometimes overblown optimism can almost see this happening across the country .

Let’s start 2021 with a surge of healing and helping.

Contact: jraftus@aol.com

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