Best, most economically efficient use for stimulus money
April 16, 2020 11:42 AM   Subscribe

We just received our stimulus funds, and we're trying to figure out the best, most economically efficient use for it in terms of helping society generally. Financially we're fine and should continue to be, and we save quite a bit already, so we don't need to save it. So it seems like the choice is between donating or spending. But how do we decide what's best?

On the one hand, it seems like spending on small businesses would be good since it would actually keep people employed. On the other hand, if people are going hungry, I want to make sure they can eat and feed their children, so giving to charities like the local food bank (which we already support regularly), seems like it makes the most sense. So which is better for the economy and people generally?

Bonus question: what local businesses would be best to spend at? The obvious is restaurants, since they're still open. But would it also be useful to buy gift cards to businesses that are currently closed for when they reopen, since those businesses could be even more vulnerable since they've been forced to close for two months?

We just want to do what's going to do the most good for the most people with this money, but it's hard to know what that is.
posted by McPuppington the Third to Society & Culture (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
See previously. I recommended a Vox article.

In general, I would think it would go a lot further donating it, in terms of how much it would help.
posted by hijol at 11:50 AM on April 16, 2020 [3 favorites]

Where I live (Durham, NC) a number of restaurants are doing "donate food to kids" or similar programs where they're trying to do some business by taking donations and then preparing food for organizations that will donate it to people who need it.

If there's anything like that near you, that might be the best of both worlds. Pump $1,200 into a struggling small business and have it converted to food for people who need it.
posted by jzb at 12:25 PM on April 16, 2020 [3 favorites]

I gave to what the Vox article described as the "best domestic coronavirus-focused charity to donate to in the US ... GiveDirectly’s Covid-19 cash program," which gives $1,000 to poor households. They will then spend the money immediately, which gets them what they need. I'd guess food would be usually be at the top of the list, but the great thing is they buy whatever they need the most. That supports they businesses they buy from and the employees of those businesses.

But I also wouldn't agonize too much over choosing "the best;" there are many people you can help in many ways.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:57 PM on April 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I would give money to a charity because the charity will either spend the money or give it to someone so that they can spend it - it’s not an either-or where you, personally have to spend the money or else it goes into a vault somewhere. Charities employ people! Charities buy things!
posted by mskyle at 1:07 PM on April 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you are in a high-risk category and don't want to shop, CSA produce boxes from local farms are a good idea. Farms are taking a massive hit between losing workers and not being able to sell to restaurants. Food banks can't take all the fresh produce, so much is being wasted.

Hiring a low-risk out-of-work neighbor to go to the store for you. Fewer people in the stores, they get some cash, you get groceries, win/win/win.
posted by Ahniya at 1:15 PM on April 16, 2020

I just learned about this site (made for mobile) where you can send small donations directly to folks via venmo or paypal. I plan to use some of my stimulus money this way in addition to donating to larger non-profits.
posted by book 'em dano at 1:21 PM on April 16, 2020

Can you donate to something where they will match your funds? That way your money will go farther and increase its effectiveness.
posted by XtineHutch at 1:54 PM on April 16, 2020

You might think of spending it on politics.
posted by Pembquist at 9:32 PM on April 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

American dollars almost always go farther in less developed countries.
posted by metasarah at 5:54 AM on April 17, 2020

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