Sunday Magazine: A World in Need - OZY | A Modern Media Company

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

Because it's time to lend a helping hand.

By Daniel Malloy

There’s a lot of pain in the world right now, from the health crisis of COVID-19 to the economic fallout that has touched most everyone in one way or another. So we’re going to take the sage advice of children’s television legend Fred Rogers. When asked about his response to tragedy, Rogers said: “Look for the helpers.”

Today, we’re empowering you, our OZY family, to become the helpers. Our Sunday Magazine explores a nation — and world — in need, while also arming you with ways to help. And while money is often a good solution, there are plenty other ways to pitch in as we try to build a better world in a time of despair. Read on and be inspired to take action.

the stakes

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Grim Numbers. More than 15 million Americans are collecting unemployment insurance, and the official unemployment rate stands at 10.2 percent. Both figures have fallen since the apex of pandemic lockdowns in May, but they remain above the peak of the Great Recession in 2009. With eviction moratoriums ended and expanded federal unemployment benefits reduced, the next fear is a wave of people being tossed out onto the street: An estimated 30 to 40 million Americans are at risk of eviction. The coronavirus numbers have declined a bit in some key states, but much of the economy remains in a state of suspended animation until a coronavirus vaccine is approved and widely distributed. 

Whither the Relief? Democrats in the U.S. House passed a $3 trillion bill to provide a fresh round of economic relief — direct payments to families, aid to states and localities, a U.S. Postal Service bailout and much more — but negotiations with Republicans in the Senate and White House ran aground. So last weekend President Donald Trump took executive action to back $300 per week of expanded federal unemployment insurance for many workers (down from $600), extend a suspension of student loan payments and other measures. But Congress would have to act for a more sweeping rescue, and Republicans remain divided on the size and scope of further relief — with no action likely until at least September.

Florida’s Unemployment Dream Team. Florida’s famously terrible unemployment assistance system — one Republican called it a “shit sandwich” — has left hundreds of thousands struggling to get the benefits they are due. So several women with a very particular set of skills got together to help people navigate the system. Dubbed the “Unemployment Dream Team,” they’ve put resources together online and helped 50,000 people get their benefits. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Read more on OZY.

Unequal Impact. The economic crisis is exacerbating America’s existing racial inequality. Black unemployment is now 15 percent (compared with 6.3 percent a year ago) while white unemployment stands at 9.4 percent (up from 3.6 percent). Black Americans are also far more likely to be frontline or “essential” workers, who are suffering a more severe impact from coronavirus. Watch OZY and OWN’s special town hall on COVID-19 and Black Women.

Haves and Have-Nots. A number that’s looking pretty good right now? The stock market. The S&P 500 is flirting with an all-time high, and tech titans like Apple, Facebook, Alphabet and Netflix are soaring, an indication of just how far the stock market is removed from the regular economy. In fact, America’s 643 billionaires have gained a total of $685 billion in wealth — just since mid-March. Mother Jones puts it all in context, pointing out that hiring 50,000 teachers nationwide would cost just $30 billion. Mr. Bezos, can you please write a check?

Unrest in Chicago. Amid concerns over police brutality and pandemic-heightened economic anxiety, cities have seen scattered outbreaks of violence and looting in recent months. More upheaval in Chicago followed last weekend’s police shooting of 20-year-old Latrell Allen, who is charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting at officers and is expected to recover after being hit in the shoulder. After the incident, Chicagoans raided the high-end shopping district known as the Magnificent Mile. Political leaders roundly condemned the looting, but as one Black Lives Matter organizer put it, “That’s reparations.” 

how you can help

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Giving Guides. There are a slew of great apps out there to help you give to charity. A couple of our favorites: CoinUp donates spare change after rounding up your card charges. Charity Miles has people sponsor your workouts. But you still have to pick the charity. Charity Navigator is a great place to start vetting. There are also cool new tools in Supportful (a holistic GoFundMe) #Spreadlovenotcorona (which harnesses the power of hashtags) and Nextdoor (despite its reputation). Read more on OZY.

Keep it Local. Your money and effort will have more of a tangible impact on the world around you if spent locally. From giving at your place of worship to volunteering at your local food bank to making sure that when you get takeout it’s not from a big chain, neighborhood acts make a difference. Please remember that hospitals can also use your money and time, as many are struggling through the pandemic. And to help you find other ways to give back locally, here’s a database of local United Way chapters

Racial Justice on Your Mind. You can also be intentional with your money about supporting racial justice and closing the wealth gap. Check out this ecommerce site entirely devoted to Black-owned businesses. And all profits for our “Reset America” gear at the OZY Store are directed to the racial justice charity of your choice.

Your Body for Science. With the globe closely following the race to find an effective vaccine for the coronavirus, you can do your part by participating in a large-scale clinical trial. From the Bay Area to Portland to Austin to Clearwater, Florida, and beyond, drug companies are actively recruiting participants. If you’ve had the virus and recovered, you can also donate your plasma to help others fight it off.

When Recovery Is Your Bag. The New York nonprofit Unshattered provides job skills training and employment for women overcoming addiction. Simple enough. But Unshattered meets the moment by making handbags, face masks and fashion accessories from upcycled materials like Broadway show banners, military uniforms and salvaged Mercedes Benz car interior fabrics. See more on OZY.

State of the Art. In an effort to funnel money to Black Lives Matter and related causes, several artists on Instagram are donating their talent in exchange for funds. And who doesn’t want a sweet skateboard? (There’s also a specific fund for Black Women Photographers.)

Freebies. With so many of us under financial strain ourselves, handing out cash might not be feasible. But even an act as simple as watching this video on loop can help direct funds to Black Lives Matter, via YouTube ad dollars. Or as we all fight this secondary pandemic of mental health woes — the CDC warned that a shocking one in four young adults considered suicide in the past month — you could volunteer to call a stranger on the phone or check in on a neighbor. Read more on OZY.

Feeding the Neighborhood. We first told you last year about how “solidarity fridges” took off in Paris, with businesses and community members putting their leftovers into fridges for anyone to take. Now the pandemic has seen this trend bloom, from Austin to New York to San Francisco to New Orleans to the Netherlands. Could you do something similar in your community?

where the comeback begins

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Cincinnati Magic. Candice Matthews Brackeen and Brian Brackeen have launched a first-of-its-kind $50 million venture fund for underrepresented founders in the Midwest, starting from their unlikely hotspot for entrepreneurs of color: Cincinnati. This isn’t a charity. The Brackeens are capitalists, out to capture a market inefficiency to find returns in an overlooked part of the country, among overlooked founders. Read more on OZY.

If You Build It … With rock-bottom interest rates making home ownership more affordable, the U.S. real estate market remains red hot, but not for the downtown condos that were trendy pre-pandemic. McMansions are back, in a big way, given the trend toward remote work — and thus the need for office space at home, and no worries about long commutes. Shed a tear for Manhattan real estate, but the larger house boom also boosts all sorts of ancillary industries. Consider the Japanese manufacturer Kubota, which just announced a new plant in Kansas that will make track loaders, useful for digging and hauling on large residential properties. Read more about the reverse urban migration on OZY.

Rural Arts. But rural America can no longer count on manufacturing the way it once did, and opportunities are dwindling. So small towns are increasingly turning to a surprising place for economic salvation: galleries, museums and craft breweries. Residents in rural counties that host performing arts organizations earn up to $6,000 more than those without them. Read more on OZY.

Who’s Hiring? There are plenty of places that are still seeking talent, or even thriving during the pandemic. The biggest banks in the U.S. and Europe hired 19,000 people during the first six months of the year, amid surging demand for loans and other products. Tech startups continue to expand in hubs like Seattle. At the other end of the wage spectrum, demand for farm workers is as strong as ever — though the jobs carry harrowing coronavirus risks.

Make China and India Spend Again. A sharp increase in consumption — and a dip in savings — in China and India helped the world economy recover after 2008. But this time, it’s unclear whether we will be able to count on the world’s two largest nations to bail us all out of a global recession. Read more on OZY.

world in need 

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While the pandemic is Job One, several countries have been hit with additional tragedy.

Crackdown in Belarus. After dictator Alexander Lukashenko declared election victory with a laughable 80 percent of the vote against popular challenger Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Belarusians took to the streets. Their government responded with mass arrests and torture, while shutting off the internet and other communication modes. You can help by supporting the nonprofit Amnesty International, which is helping bring to light abuses within the country.

Beirut Fallout. A devastating explosion — the exact cause of which remains unclear — killed 170 people, left 300,000 homeless in downtown Beirut and sparked increased unrest. The country was already teetering on the edge of economic collapse before the blast. You can help by backing any number of groups, including the International Medical Corps and UNICEF.

Environmental Disaster in Mauritius. More than 1,000 tons of fuel oil spilled into the Indian Ocean last month after a Japanese tanker ran aground on coral off the island nation of Mauritius, causing the worst ecological crisis in the country’s history, with devastating implications for its biodiversity and tourist trade. There are crowdfunding campaigns to help locals, but hair salons are also chipping in — turns out human hair is a great material for soaking up oil.

homelessness crisis

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The Next Pandemic. The rent is due at last in America, and millions can’t pay. The telltale signs of people’s belongings piled on the sidewalk are indicative of the wave of evictions that are now wreaking havoc. In Ohio, 23 percent of people said they couldn’t make their rent or mortgage payment last month or had little or no confidence they’d make it this month. And there are eerie parallels to the mortgage crisis of 2008 in the government’s unwillingness to step in.

Hotel Living. It seems like an easy enough fix: Hotels are vacant due to the pandemic, and the homeless population is surging — and particularly vulnerable to the virus. But housing the homeless in hotels is proving to be difficult in California, which instituted Project Roomkey with much fanfare this spring but has been slow to roll out due to bureaucratic stumbles. And housing the homeless in hotels among the well-to-do on the Upper West Side of New York has drawn some community backlash.

Long-Running Crisis. America’s homeless problem long predates the pandemic, owing to skyrocketing housing costs and economic inequality. Early this year, OZY took a comprehensive look at the problem and some innovative solutions, from tiny houses for veterans to a chatbot for “the hidden homeless.” Dive in further on OZY.

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