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Private Coronavirus Relief is Better than Government

The government’s forced quarantines and work restrictions have had a terrible economic impact. To try to correct the problem they caused, politicians are starting their dollar-bill printing presses, creating money out of thin air like a magician—and like a magician, hoping that nobody will notice the trick.

That news is dominating headlines, so you almost certainly know about it. But what isn’t making as many headlines is the news that voluntary, private coronavirus relief is better than government action. What follows is just a small sample of what’s happening every day all over the world.

Government regulations prevent markets from meeting demand as they otherwise could, and that’s been seen in a shortage of medical supplies as the coronavirus spreads. Prudential Financial contributed towards fixing that shortage, donating 153,000 face masks and approximately 75,000 respirators to hospitals across New Jersey.

Private Coronavirus Relief is Better than Government
A Prudential employee prepares stored medical supplies for donation. Image: Prudential Financial

Generous people aren’t just thinking about the safety of healthcare workers, but also their basic needs—like coffee. Starbucks has said that through 3 May, all customers who are hospital staff will receive a tall brewed coffee at no charge. In addition, Starbucks is donating $500,000 to charities that support hospital workers.

But treating COVID patients takes more than caffeine—it takes calories. So Krispy Kreme has joined in as well, pledging to donate a dozen donuts to all healthcare workers every Monday. They’ll continue through National Nurses Week (May 6-12).

Private Coronavirus Relief is Better than Government
Healthcare workers pose with donated donuts. Image: @cappiern

Hospital employees are working very hard to help people sick with COVID, but they are fortunate to still have jobs. The government’s restrictions shut down a lot of businesses, and put a lot of people out of work. Hardest hit are wage-earning employees. That’s why Kent Taylor, the CEO of Texas Roadhouse, has chosen to donate his year’s salary to help his front-line hourly workers.

Taylor is not the only one supporting employees affected by the government’s orders. Gene Lee, the CEO of Darden (the parent company of Olive Garden and LongHorn) is not taking his salary. Rather, he’s investing it and other company resources in an emergency pay program to cover hourly employees. They’re also adjusting their business model to meet the crisis. Lee explained that “what we’re focused on right now is ramping up and using our team members to be able to keep them on our payroll and develop our own delivery capabilities.”

Private Coronavirus Relief is Better than Government
Darden, the parent company of Olive Garden, is adjusting to a delivery-based business model to keep people employed. Image: Olive Garden

And it’s not only employers who are helping with finances. Business are voluntarily helping their customers with financial difficulties. Some financial institutions, such as USAA, are choosing to waive fees, reimburse deductibles on coronavirus-related healthcare, and offer loans at reduced rates.

Utilities are choosing to help as well. In the frozen north, Alaska Waste has said that they “can accommodate payment arrangements; and will work with you individually to meet your needs.” They have also pledged to not stop garbage collection services for people who cannot pay during this crisis.

The outpouring of care from all over the world has been tremendous. We’ve covered additional voluntary relief efforts previously, but as the government-created crisis continues, people keep helping each other. Politicians will continue to bicker about how to distribute your own money back to you, as they hope you forget that it’s they who are driving the economy off a cliff. But everyone else, from huge corporations to private individuals, have stepped up to voluntarily help. Like in everything, private coronavirus relief is better than government efforts.

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Private Businesses Are Helping Coronavirus Victims

While politicians are shutting down stores and endlessly debating about how to spend your tax money, private businesses are helping coronavirus victims. There are too many stories for use to document them all, but here’s a quick selection.

After Governor Herbert closed the government schools, Fat Daddy’s Pizzeria in Provo, UT felt awful about the children who relied on the school lunches. Similar to us at Voluntaryism in Action, the good folks at Fat Daddy’s decided to do something about it. That something was a free lunch—to any school-aged child who needed it.

Private Businesses Are Helping Coronavirus Victims
Fat Daddy's Facebook post announcing their voluntary charity.

They weren’t expecting the volume of responses—not just from people wanting help, but from people offering help. Donations of money poured in. People called up to volunteer to serve food. In defiance of the callous unconcern of the government to people grown dependent on them, Fat Daddy’s brought the community together to help voluntarily.

Private Businesses Are Helping Coronavirus Victims
Fat Daddy's did not expect such an amazing response from their community.

Unlike pizza, one thing that’s difficult to find in Provo, UT is a stiff drink. With the government’s wave of restaurant and bar closures, it wasn’t just people in UT having a hard time feeling the Irish spirit(s) this St. Patrick’s Day. Hardest hit were the bartenders who depend on the revenue for their livelihood. Enter Jameson Irish Whiskey, who has pledged to donate $500,000 to support bartenders affected by this crisis.

Private Businesses Are Helping Coronavirus Victims

Not all help has been as urgent as feeding children and paying bills. Lives have been upset by the shutting down of college an university campuses, with many students left in a painful state of limbo. U-Haul has offered these students 30 days of free self-storage to help get them through the crisis, in addition to reduced rates for truck and trailer rentals.

Private Businesses Are Helping Coronavirus Victims
U-Haul adds their efforts to help mitigate the fallout from the government's response to coronavirus.

With government grade school closures, a lot of parents have found themselves at home with their children for multiple weeks. These parents, made dependent on the state for education, are lost when it comes to teaching their own kids. Yet again, private businesses are helping coronavirus victims. The Facebook page Amazing Educational Resources compiled a list of 30 education companies offering free subscriptions due to the failure of the government schools in this crisis. Here is a link to the spreadsheet, so you can check it out yourself: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1t3r618pd8MAi6V87dG2D66PtiKoHdHusBpjPKXgm36w/htmlview?sle=true&usp=gmail#gid=0

These are only a few of the examples that voluntaryists shared in the VIA Community Group on Facebook. There must be dozens—or even hundreds—that I don’t know about. What’s really amazing is that all of these businesses and people helping others have also been affected by the government’s draconian measures. But they looked around, saw people less fortunate, and reached out to help—as people always do, and always will. That’s why voluntary aid works.

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Boxer Donates Winnings To Charity

Instead of spending his money on sports cars and swimming pools, this boxer donated his winnings to charity — specifically, to fighting homelessness.

British Boxer Tyson Fury has championed many charitable causes since his own battles with drug abuse and mental health problems. The Sun reports that when he traveled to an event in LA and saw the homeless crisis that the government has caused, he vowed to do something.

Boxer Donates Winnings To Charity
Tyson Fury has said he gave away his money to help people, not himself. (Credit: DAVID GARCIA - KONG EVENTS)

There was more than sentiment behind the boxer’s promise. Following his bout with Deontay Wilder, Fury donated his entire paycheck of about $9 million to charities that provide housing for indigent alcohol and drug addicts in his home country of England.

But Fury claims that knowing he’s been able to help people is worth more than any publicity that might come from his actions. “I did give away my last purse but I don’t do charity work for a pat on the back,” Fury said. “I do it to help people but I do not want praise for it, I don’t want to be called a do-gooder.”

Boxer Donates Winnings To Charity
Tyson Fury gave away his $9 million Wilder fight money to charity. (Credit: DAVID GARCIA - KONG EVENTS)

Fury’s fight against his newest rival—homelessness—is a great inspiration to all of us who believe in voluntaryism. People want to help others. And from boxers donating their winnings to charity to a neighbor providing a helping hand, they will.

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Providing Healthcare at a Low Cost: Walmart Opens Care Host Locations

There is a new force in town battling against the growing costs of medical care for Americans: Walmart. That’s right—as the broken system of government-regulated healthcare continues to drive itself into the ground with high costs, Walmart has geared up to offer affordable healthcare services for their customers.

The local Supercenter in Calhoun, GA has constructed 12 waiting rooms in their 6,300-square-foot facility where insured and uninsured patients can have a medical checkup for $30 or a $25 teeth cleaning. There are even counselors available for people seeking mental health services and they charge only $1 a minute for their sessions. In addition to these services, x-rays and hearing checks are also provided. You can book your appointments online or walk in for their services and you can even get labs done on the weekend!

walmart affordable healthcare services
The reception area at the Walmart Health center in Dallas. (PEYTON FULFORD FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK)

Another Care Host location has been established in Dallas, GA as well. These health centers have their own separate entrance from the parking lot, which gives customers a sense of privacy. This is a big leap from their past “Care Clinics” that were cramped within the store and only provided limited services to customers. Now, Walmart has moved in the right direction by completely revamping their original idea for retail clinics. The set prices pretty much eliminate most of the paperwork for both doctors and patients, as patients would rather pay a flat rate than getting their insurance involved.

Dr. Janki Patel at the Calhoun location says it allows optimal patient care: “I don’t feel so rushed and I can spend more time with patients.” This is possible because Walmart’s model lowers the costs of offering services by about 40% by cutting out what Sean Slovenski (Walmart SVP of health and wellness) calls “administrative baloney.” Services cost nearly half of what they would in hospitals and private practices.

walmart affordable healthcare services
The clinics will perform diagnostic lab tests for things like blood glucose and lipids. (PEYTON FULFORD FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK)

Walmart has not given an official statement regarding how many “Care Host” locations will be opened, but there is no question that expansion is eminent considering that Walmart attracts 150 million people a week in all 4,756 locations. Slovenski states that they will be opening their third location in Loganville, GA.

It remains to be seen whether Walmart’s low-cost healthcare services will sustain enough income for full expansion, but the outlook is good. Either way, this is just another example of businesses stepping up where the government continuously lacks, showing the American people once again that there are other avenues for them to rely on.

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Nonprofits Use Apps to Get Food to Needy

Food waste and hunger are two huge problems in the United States, but nonprofits are using apps to address the issue.

The USDA estimates that over 30% of the food produced each year in the US is not consumed—ironically, mostly due to regulations from the government. If food gets too old, vendors have throw it away—even if it’s still safe to eat.

To combat the food waste, apps enable volunteers to pick up the extra food and deliver it to nonprofits, who deliver it to hungry people.

“KFC is preparing chicken continuously, Chipotle is preparing food continuously. We rescue it while it’s still hot and freeze it quickly,” says Bill Reighard, founder and CEO of Food Donation Connection. Since 1992, the nonprofit has been working to get unsold food to the needy, coordinating donations from companies like Pizza Hut.

nonprofits apps food waste
A volunteer using the Food Rescue Hero app to check in at a Pittsburgh grocery store to pick up donated food. (Monica Godfrey-Garrison/412 Food Rescue via AP)

“Many of the problems in the world today feel too big for one person to handle, but feeding the hungry is a way to take action,” says Leah Lizarondo, co-founder of the nonprofit 412 Food Rescue, based in Pittsburgh.

“It’s a step that you can take today,” she says, “and it’s very clear what your impact is. It’s as clear as feeding someone that day.”

Lizadorno’s nonprofit made an app called Food Rescue Hero that works on a model similar to Lyft or Door Dash: users can see instantly if unsold food is available at local stores and restaurants, and volunteer immediately to deliver it to a soup kitchen or food pantry.

Food Rescue Hero has announced that it’s teaming up with Reighard’s Food Donation Connection to build a shared online platform. The goal of their collaboration is to make it even easier for people to help those in need.

nonprofits apps food waste
Melinda Angeles and Eli Thomas transporting a donation of bagels from Bruegger's Bagels across the 9th Street bridge to a North Side senior center in Pittsburgh. (Nancy Andrews/412 Food Rescue via AP)

The MealConnect app from Feeding America takes the same approach. It has been used since 2014 for scheduled donations from chains like Walmart and Target. Beginning last summer, volunteers can also sign up to do impromptu, smaller food rescues. After they’ve registered at MealConnect.org or via the app, volunteers get a short training session at a food bank and are outfitted with a small toolkit of food safety equipment.

Volunteers might be “between classes, or maybe they’re retired, or they’re an Uber or Lyft driver that wants to take a break from driving people around,” says Justin Block, managing director of MealConnect at Feeding America.

There’s no doubt that people want to help others, and they will if given the freedom to do so. As we can see, they’ll even come up with innovative ways to help those less fortunate. And the easier it becomes to help those in need, the more people will do it—voluntarily.

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Private Practitioners in Hong Kong Volunteer Amidst Coronavirus Outbreak

As the threat of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) worsens, healthcare workers in China have struggled to keep up with the amount of patients who are in need of treatment. This is in part due to the influx of cases and their own workers being impacted by COVID-19. According to recent numbers, the confirmed cases of the virus are reaching beyond 76,000 with the majority of those cases in China.

Over 1,700 healthcare workers have now contracted the virus, adding to the strain on essential manpower. As this crisis continues it’s outspreading impact on the country, a union named the “Association of Private Medical Specialists of Hong Kong” has offered help by sending 135 of their private practitioners to assist at public hospitals.

Mak Kam-fai, chairman of the Hong Kong Disciplined Services Volunteer Corps, has said about 300 people from across departments have offered to help in the coronavirus fight. Photo: Edward Wong

Not only are doctors offering their aid during the outbreak, but 300 officers from disciplined services have also volunteered their own manpower by setting up areas for quarantine and gathering general patient information. At the quarantine sites, surgical masks and other supplies are given to those in need of them. “Some of our officers have qualifications, such as in nursing, and can offer medical help. We can also help check people’s body temperatures in heavy passenger flow areas, such as control points or main MTR stations,” says Mak, a retired officer within the fire services.

This comes at a time when medical practitioners are going on strike amongst the difficult and dangerous conditions surrounding their work place environment. Still, volunteers have persisted and are introduced to safety protocols first thing, including the process of putting on and removing their protective gear.

Current and retired members of Hong Kong’s disciplined services have volunteered to help amid the outbreak. Some may be used to do temperature checks. Photo: Winson Wong

Most of the volunteers feel that it is their duty to offer their knowledge and services during a crisis of this magnitude. Cheng Yuk-leung, a retired corrections officer with a nursing background, took his position firmly: “It’s a sense of responsibility for our society. As an enrolled nurse, I can offer more medical assistance, especially in the quarantine sites.”

The fact that the picket lines in the hospital have been crossed by brave volunteers willing to risk their own health amid the growing coronavirus outbreak—not to mention the tens of millions of donated dollars—is an inspiring example of what people are willing to do for their fellow man in times of crisis, no coercion required.

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Gates Foundation Donates $100 Million for Coronavirus Relief

The novel coronavirus that began in Wuhan, China is still spreading across the globe. Agencies across the world are collaborating to help stop the virus, and at the head of the pack is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has pledged up to $100 million in aid.

CNN Business reports that the funds will be directed towards government and non-government agencies in an effort to improve detection and treatment for the disease—including vaccine development.

“The release of fast and flexible funding is intended to help multilateral organizations and national public health authorities rapidly scale up their virus detection capabilities and implement disease modeling analytics,” the Foundation said in a statement.

Bill Gates and Melinda Gates at an event in New York in 2018.

Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft in 1975 and is the world’s second-richest person. He and his wife Melinda have been donating to improve public health for years. In 2009, they gave $33 million to help with a tuberculosis outbreak in China. In 2010, they committed $10 billion toward vaccine research.

Other wealthy business leaders have pledged millions to provide aid during the coronavirus outbreak, including Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma ($14.4 million) and Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun ($1.8 million). With such a tremendous outpouring of aid, there’s no doubt that given the opportunity, people can and will help each other voluntarily.

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Superstore Voluntarily Feeds Needy Families

Winter can be a hard time of year for anyone, but just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean that people’s hearts are cold. Pam Smallman, manager of the Superstore in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada, is proof of that.

The CBC reports that every Saturday from noon to 1PM, the Superstore offers a free lunch to anybody who wants to come. “Whether it be that they’re hungry or whether it be that they’re lonely, and they just want to come in and have a bite to eat, then we want to do that,” said Smallman. Her new initiative was prompted by a phone call she received several weeks ago—from a man who had no money to buy food for his family, but didn’t get paid until the next week.

“He reached out to me for some help and it really stopped me dead in my tracks. And it’s been on my mind ever since because I just thought ‘my God, this man had to call and ask me to help him because he couldn’t feed his family’ and it was just a heart-stopping moment.”

The lunches will be simple, says Pam Smallman: soup and sandwich, or maybe chili and rolls.

The lunches will be prepared by staff with food donated from the Superstore. Smallman doesn’t know how many people will take advantage of her offer, but she wants to create a worm and welcoming space for them.

“Winter is a tough time for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons,” said Smallman. “I live here. These are my family, these are my friends, these are my neighbours, and I know from growing up here and I know from being here that there’s a lot of people that struggle.”

Meeting bills for groceries or utilities between paychecks is a common need—it’s one of the things we’re most frequently asked about at VIA. Smallman is a perfect example that people can deeply empathize with their fellows—and from that empathy, voluntarily help them.

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Charity Creates Companion Robot For Sick Children

Few things can be more isolating than a prolonged illness. While bad enough for adults, this is worse for children, who can be more emotionally and psychologically sensitive than adults. Just ask Ethan Hayes: after being diagnosed with brain cancer, his four surgeries, 30 sessions of radiation radiation therapy, and seven months of chemotherapy, he’s been separated from his school friends for over a year. But Ethan now has an unexpectedly welcome companion who can tell jokes, answer questions, and play games—a robot named Zenbo.

Ethan Hayes, age 7, and his sister Chloe, age 8, are the first to test Chai Lifeline Canada's new therapeutic robot, Zenbo. Image credit: JULIANNA PERKINS/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

The Globe and Mail reports that a team from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology had been developing an interactive companion robot for five years. They were approached by the Toronto-based charity Chai Lifeline Canada, who wanted to take the project in an unusual direction: keeping sick children company. “One of the things that we’re hoping to do with the robot is to have a child be able to connect with somebody, almost like a little buddy who can be there for him,” said Mordechai Rothman, executive director of Chai Lifeline Canada.

This pilot project is set to last six months, and to work with several families besides Ethan’s. The Zenbo robot is more versatile and interactive than an iPad or similar device, featuring motion sensors, a touchscreen, facial recognition, and more. Such interaction can provide invaluable mental and emotional support for children, even if it’s from a robot. Thanks to the charitable efforts of Chai Lifeline Canada, this powerful resource that has helped Ethan could be available to many more people in the future.

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Government Steals $600 Million From Detroit Homeowners

In a spectacular display of callous unconcern, the City of Detroit has overtaxed its homeowners by over $600 million during the past 10 years.

According to investigative reporting by The Detroit News, Wayne county tax assessors simply stopped reassessing homes as market prices fell. Anna Bolden bought a lovely brick bungalow at a tax foreclosure auction for $4,800. When her tax bill came in, she found out why the house had been foreclosed: the city was charging taxes on a house worth $57,000. “I went down [to city and county offices] to ask questions, but it’s like everybody is giving you the runaround,” she said. “It makes you feel like they are cheating you…but what can you do?”

Anna Bolden (Photo: Robin Buckson, The Detroit News)

Although some homeowners managed to pay their inflated tax bills, at least 59,000 homes still have tax debts totaling $153 million dollars—including interest and fees on their fraudulent debts. There is a process to appeal the tax bills, but it’s a long and complicated process, and many don’t even know it exists. About 28,000 people have already lost their homes to the government over the excessive taxes. The ACLU of Michigan and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund sued to stop the tax foreclosure auction in 2016, but a judge ruled that the Michigan Tax Tribunal had oversight rather than the court—essentially claiming that this injustice was not his problem.

Despite low-interest repayment programs put into place by the government, many citizens feel that more should be done. However, city officials report that they are not allowed to simply eliminate the tax debt—even when the amount people were overcharged is more than the debt the currently owe. Nor are they allowed to retroactively apply poverty tax credits that people qualified for but were not aware of in previous years.

Anna Bolden's home in Detroit. (Photo: Robin Buckson, The Detroit News)

Of course, simply forgiving the tax debt that should never have been levied in the first place is out of the question for the government. City and county officials have argued that forgiving overtaxed residents who have not paid their taxes would be “unfair” to those who have paid. Naturally, the same officials have made no effort to address the unfairness faced by those who have lost their homes due to the overtaxing. However, the former Chair of the State Tax Commission Doug Roberts admitted that “Nobody paid as much attention as we should have. We should have [intervened] sooner.” Roberts also stated that the Detroit News’ findings are a “compelling case” and the government should “resolve the issues as equitably as possible.”

“That’s what government exists for,” Roberts said. Whether the government exists to belatedly correct a problem that it created and then ignored for years while tens of thousands of people suffered, you can judge for yourself.

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