As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, essential workers are on the front lines providing health care, delivering packages and groceries, and preparing takeout meals. Unfortunately, many of these people work jobs with little sick leave or safety nets, and they could be struggling with how to stay safe at work, how to find childcare, and how to cope with reduced hours.

Many of us are feeling helpless, but there’s a lot we can do to support frontline workers.

Here are a few ways to help: 


Stay home

You’ve no doubt heard “stay home” 100 times a day, but it can’t be said enough. There are early indicators that social distancing is slowing infection rates, so as tough as it is, staying in your house is the best way you can help frontline workers. The fewer people out and about and potentially unknowingly spreading the virus, the safer they will be.

That’s especially true for grocery store workers, bus drivers, gig workers and others who routinely come in contact with the public. Many say their employers aren’t doing enough to help them mitigate their risks, so you can do your part by staying away.

Staying home also helps health care workers whose resources are already strained trying to help sick patients. By doing everything you can to avoid contracting the virus, you give them some breathing room to do their job and reduce the chances of getting them sick.

Delivery services have stepped up to make staying home possible. Apps like Shipt and UberEats have made dropping off at your doorstep the default setting for deliveries, minimizing the delivery workers contact and keeping you home.


Donate to fundraisers

Many governmental and nonprofit organizations are raising money to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and other forms of assistance to frontline health care workers. A number of organizations are raising money to help people in the hard-hit food and beverage industry to cope with financial losses related to their hours being cut or layoffs at their bars and restaurants. (The Southern Smoke Foundation, headed by Houston-based chef Chris Shepherd, is one such organization aiming to help restaurants and workers during the crisis.) Food banks nationwide need donations to help provide more meals for food insecure families. Donating extra food or sending in virtual monetary donations can go a long way. Nonprofits like museums and local arts organizations typically rely on spring ticket sales to bring in revenue. Donating directly or buying a gift card for later use can help with cash flow.


Send food to hospitals

Ordering pizzas, party subs, or burrito platters for the staff at a local hospital is a useful and tasty way to show your gratitude. You can also contribute to nonprofits that regularly deliver meals to the health care workers fighting the virus. Front Line Foods, for example, has partnered with volunteers and local restaurants in more than a dozen cities to purchase and deliver meals directly to health care workers.


Tip delivery drivers

Money stresses are real for millions of people as a result of layoffs and industry slowdowns caused by COVID-19. But if you’re in a position to do so, tipping your delivery people well is a way to thank them for their services and help get them through this tough time.


Give bartenders virtual tips

Bartenders rely on tips to make their rent, pay their utility bills, and buy groceries. Now they’re left without their hourly wages or tips, putting them in an extremely precarious financial situation. You can help by contributing to virtual tip jars or sending donations after attending online cocktail-making sessions and happy hours. An easy way to remember to tip is to act as though you’re at a bar every time you pour a drink at home, and then send a couple bucks to an online fund. As one Louisiana organizer told, “If you’re having a drink at home, think about the people who usually serve you.”


Limit your grocery and online shopping orders

Ordering groceries to your home or opting for online shopping is a good way to practice social distancing and support businesses. But buy for a week or two at a time when you can to ease pressure on workers. Frontline workers in a number of industries are raising the alarm about companies pressuring them to keep working without providing gloves and masks, failing to properly sanitize their work environments and failing to provide adequate pay and sick leave. Batching your groceries helps reduce the amount of time shoppers need to be in stores and potentially exposing themselves to sick people. If you must go out yourself, bring a list, shop quickly and keep at least 6 feet between yourself and others. The faster you’re in and out of the store, the better for everyone.


Buy online gift cards

Although it will be some time before you’re dining out or shopping at your favorite local stores, buying gift cards from them now will give them some much-needed income while they are closed or able to offer only takeout services.


Share food and supplies if you can

In addition to tipping delivery drivers, consider whether you can spare essential items such as soap, toilet paper or snacks. Remember, these people need the basics as much as anyone else, and they’re likely not earning much money despite working many hours. If you’re in a position to share your isolation supplies, it could ease the burden on frontline workers and their families.

Truck drivers are also vital to the economy right now, especially in keeping grocery stores supplied. However, many of the rest stops where they used to take breaks to grab a cup of coffee or use the restroom are closed. If you are on the road or live near a truck stop, consider leaving supplies such as canned or bottled coffee, toilet paper and packaged food. Even an appreciative note lets them know their work is seen and valued.


Help domestic workers afford sick leave and insurance

If you hire domestic workers, consider signing up for a site such as Alia, which allows you to contribute $5 to a fund for them every time they come to your home to work. This helps them save enough money to take time off when they’re sick and to purchase accident and life insurance. Even if you’re not having them come by to clean or do work during the pandemic, continuing to contribute, or paying their rates if you’re able, can make a huge difference to their finances right now.

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