Iowa Auditor Rob Sand took matters into his own hands Monday as he put out a call to action on social media asking for donations to individuals so they can spend money at small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Local restaurants need customers. Unemployed Iowans need support. You need the feeling of knowing you helped both with one gift,” the post reads from @RobSandIA.
#coronavirus ? aid
?WE CAN HELP?
-Venmo to IowaHi or PayPal to email@example.com
-All $ to unemployed ppl who just bought food from restaurants hit by closure orders
I’m giving a month of my pay- please give and RT pic.twitter.com/qq6lSSHcph
— Rob Sand (@RobSandIA) March 23, 2020
Responding to comments on his post, Sand said he set up Venmo and PayPal accounts for this effort, which is unaffiliated with taxpayer money or a campaign.
“Planning to have it audited,” he said on Twitter.
Those who want to help can Venmo to IowaHi or PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As part of the donation, Sand said he was contributing one month of his paycheck.
Online efforts like Sand’s have cropped up in communities across the state as small businesses try to make ends meet without dine-in customers and a mounting number of individuals face layoffs.
On March 17, Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a State of Public Health Disaster Emergency to limit bars and restaurants to delivery and carry-out business only. Fitness centers, theaters, casinos and senior citizen centers also were closed to the public. On Sunday, the governor said all salons, barber shops, medical spas, massage therapists, tattoo shops and swimming pools must close.
In Southeast Iowa, Progress Burlington created a “Virtual Tip Jar,” compiling names and PayPal/Venmo accounts of area food service workers so they could still receive some tips while their bars and restaurants were closed.
Chase Gibb, a Burlington businessman with two restaurants in Burlington and one in Fort Madison, took a similar approach to Sand, setting up a Venmo account to collect donations to bring meals to health care workers, first responders and others on the front-lines of the public health emergency. Gibb said he raised $7,072 to begin delivering meals over the next 10 days.
Iowa officials have yet to release unemployment statistics since businesses began to close, but in a press conference last week, Beth Townsend, director of Iowa Workforce Development, said the number of new claims was “staggering.”
By Elizabeth Meyer