Even as the Legislature moves to open the spigot on more than one billion dollars of relief funds intended to stem the economic damage of the coronavirus pandemic, local residents of our region aren’t just sitting around, waiting.
Instead, Mississippians are helping Mississippians.
Throughout this crisis, The Daily Journal has used its reporting to focus attention on all the ways our communities have pulled together to offer assistance and help where it’s needed.
Last week, we looked at how restaurant workers are responding, in an article reported by Danny McArthur. In today’s Sunday edition, McArthur also reported how grassroots, bottom-up efforts are working to build community connections and make certain that no one falls through the cracks in a time of great need.
Oxford is a community especially known for its restaurants and hospitality industry. As shelter-in-place orders and social distancing measures began to shutter these industries about a month and a half ago, Alena Tikhova, the owner of Dodo Pizza, started the Restaurant Workers Relief Center.
Tikhova estimates that about 500 restaurant workers have lost their job in Oxford alone.
In response, the Restaurant Workers Relief Center has helped more than 40 people pay bills and has served hundreds through a food pantry.
Similar efforts are ongoing elsewhere. A Facebook group called Tupelo Community Needs has helped laid-off restaurant workers look for odd jobs or other paying work.
A similar Facebook page called Starkville Strong offers packages of vital supplies, including food, diapers, cleaning supplies and gift cards.
Other organizing efforts operate on the basis of linking community members directly to each other, building solidarity even in a time of physical distancing. These mutual aid efforts are active in Oxford and Tupelo.
All this even as a partnership between the CREATE Foundation and the United Way of Northeast Mississippi continues to distribute money to partner agencies from its COVID-19 Support Fund. That money has gone to food banks, shelters and other worthy causes, including diapers and formula for children and meals for frontline workers.
So even as dining-rooms reopen and other businesses open their doors for the first time in weeks, let’s remember: the need isn’t going away anytime soon. Some restaurants and retail stores have not yet opened. Those that have must still restrict the numbers of patrons served and some will likely operate on limited hours.
That means the number of staff needed and the hours available for those staff will not immediately return to pre-pandemic levels. We are still very early in what will almost certainly be a long process of returning to normalcy, a process that also contains much uncertainty.
In the face of this long process, the resources of state and federal governments will be a vital tool. The Mississippi Legislature appropriated some $300 million last week for small business relief and we hope to see Gov. Tate Reeves quickly move to administer this relief.
But even as this money, and other relief money, begins to seep into our community, let’s not forget: We all have a role to play. Look for your own role, and take it.