People across the country are struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 outbreak. Many in the service industry have lost their jobs, and are worried about how to pay their bills and rent this month. Others have been forced to close their businesses, or are unable to leave their homes because of the risk of exposure. Community organizers are stepping up to provide some relief for people who could face hardship because of the coronavirus. In LA, the COVID-19 Mutual Aid Network is taking on the challenge.
The network is made up of different grassroots organizations coming together to provide assistance throughout LA during the outbreak. The Mutual Aid Network helps people by getting groceries, picking up prescriptions, walking dogs or providing childcare. Another aspect of the network is a GoFundMe page that the groups have set up to provide monetary support for people who are struggling financially.
KCRW’s Cerise Castle spoke with Kendall Mayhew, co-founder of Ground Game LA and one of the organizers behind the effort. Mayhew says that she and others were inspired to create the network after a lack of action from the federal and local government.
“When we started to understand exactly what the danger level was with COVID-19 and what was happening in other countries, we also realized that the responses that we were seeing from the federal government — [and] also the state and local government — were already insufficient,” she says. “Even just internally, we immediately convened a team and got in meetings together about what we were going to do, and how we were going to respond to this. We have a slew of people who have already been fired outright or lost effectively enough work for them to not be able to make rent.”
The fundraiser was launched on March 14, and raised almost $30,000 in just three days. Along with the GoFundMe, the COVID-19 Mutual Aid Network has also set up a Google form as a sort of intake for people who need help, and people who are able to give it. It asks what kind of assistance is needed, how you identify, and where they can deliver goods to you. People are donating time, money, and supplies to keep it running. Mayhew says that most of the people who have asked for help want to give it, too.
“Somebody might need monetary assistance, but have a working car and be able to deliver food to somebody,” Mayhew says. “And the people who are requesting needs, the things that we're seeing are people needing grocery delivery or needing help picking up medicine supplies, hygiene supplies or having those delivered.”
But they’ve had some issues getting the word out. Castle says that she has reviewed 20 posts about the network that Facebook has flagged and removed from the platform. The company has also come under fire for deleting articles about coronavirus from different publications. Facebook has not responded to KCRW’s request for comment.
Mayhew is not discouraged by the technical difficulties. She says that she and the organizers she works with are inspired by the outpouring of generosity.
“We have not had this kind of fundraising work before, and we're really excited about what this kind of money means for us to be able to help my people.”