The coronavirus pandemic has forced restaurants, retailers and other businesses across the country to scale back or shut down their operations. A federal relief package makes available over $300 billion in loans and grants for small businesses, but not all businesses qualify, and for those that do, aid may be weeks or months away.
Still, you can do your part to help suffering business owners and their employees. Here’s how.
1. Order takeout or delivery
If you have room in your budget — and need a break from that pasta and canned-food stockpile — grab a bite from a local joint. As restaurants, cafes and other eateries suspend dine-in services, many have pivoted to delivery and to-go orders. And they’re counting on your continued patronage to survive.
It’s worth checking with your usual haunts, even those that don’t normally offer these options. Some have made exceptions. In certain places, bars are serving up cocktails to go, for example.
Have a steady income? Consider placing orders for relatives and neighbors as well, especially those who are elderly or otherwise vulnerable. Janice Jucker, co-owner of Three Brothers Bakery in Houston suggests moving up holiday gift-giving.
“If you know you’re going to give 20 pecan pies to your friends and family, buy them now. They’re sitting at home anyway, they probably would appreciate it,” she says.
2. Leave a tip
Gratuities often make up a sizable chunk of income for workers like cashiers and delivery drivers. The pandemic has significantly slowed business, and many employees are losing pay. Tipping generously can help them make up for lost wages.
If you can afford it, consider tipping 5% to 10% more during this crisis. So if you usually tip 20%, bump it up to 25%.
3. Buy gift cards
Gift cards and certificates can act as much-needed free loans for businesses. Purchase them from the places that provide goods and services you enjoy — hair salons, movie theaters, restaurants and so on. You can redeem those gift cards later on and still help out your favorite businesses now.
4. Shop online
Clothing boutiques, home-furnishing retailers and other establishments have shuttered storefronts indefinitely. But many still have fully operational websites. As you shop for items while hunkering down, look to small businesses first. For example, purchase a book from your neighborhood bookstore’s website before heading to Amazon. (You may be pleasantly surprised to find abundant sales going on, too.)
Businesses without an online checkout option might fulfill orders over the phone or via email, so reach out to staff members with inquiries.
5. Make a donation
Look for businesses and organizations you’d like to give money to. Some fitness studios, tutoring services and other businesses are now offering virtual services for free, accepting Venmo or PayPal donations. Relief funds have also been set up for bars, restaurants, food service workers and others in need. The nonprofit James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund, for example, provides financial assistance to independent restaurants.
Another charitable choice: Don’t ask for a refund. If you bought tickets for a now-canceled event, such as a show at a local playhouse, treat the ticket price as a donation. Your contribution will be appreciated.