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Josh Bergeron: Consider donating stimulus check to COVID-19 relief fund

Last week, the Internal Revenue Service and Department of the Treasury announced 90 million stimulus checks had been disbursed from the most recent stimulus package — the American Rescue Plan.

That first batch of payments primarily went to people who provided direct deposit information on 2019 or 2020 returns and totaled more than $242 billion. Among that total was 150,000 paper checks worth about $442 million. The checks will provide a much-needed boost to a large swath of people, including those struggling with a job search after being laid off or who aren’t able to work because of health concerns.

For folks who will receive a stimulus check and who don’t otherwise need it, consider donating some or all of it to a charitable cause. One good destination is the United Way’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, which has generated $255,638 in contributions and doled out $214,390 to local organizations.

“We have had some amazing programming and partnerships created as a result of the relief grants,” said Rowan United Way Executive Director Jenny Lee.

The organizations helped include:

• Meals on Wheels, which has traditionally delivered food to homebound seniors and expanded its role during the pandemic;

• Rowan Helping Ministries, which received money to provide rent and utility assistance.

• Main Street Marketplace (formerly Main Street Mission), which received money to cover supplemental food and hygiene products for people in need as well as rent and utility assistance.

• The Rowan-Cabarrrus YMCA, which received funding to run a program called the Y Academy. The program provided child care and a safe place to learn on days when students didn’t have in-person classes.

• Trinity Living Center, an adult day service run by Lutheran Services Carolinas.

Among other things, the fund also used $60,000 to purchase cloth face masks to distribute to people who wanted or needed them. That the fund has been able to generate more than $250,000 to provide grants to nonprofit organizations is a testament to Salisbury’s and Rowan County’s desire to help their neighbors.

Lee says the relief fund is committed to supporting the Y Academy through the 2020-2021 academic year and monitoring needs through its 211 service.

After receiving the first two checks via direct deposit, I’m still among those seeing “payment status not available” on the IRS’ tracking website: irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment. I’ve spent the past week scouring social media forums, calling my bank and the IRS (both of which haven’t been helpful) and waiting. After paying off some bills, I plan to donate the remainder of my stimulus check to the COVID-19 Relief Fund.

You can join me by donating online at rowanunitedway.org/covid-19-relief-fund, by calling the United Way for more information at 704-633-1802 or visiting in person at 131 West Innes St. The United Way is located on the second floor of the Salisbury Post’s building.

If you have a specific charity or ministry in mind, consider donating part of your stimulus check there, too. If you have a local business you particularly like, make some extra purchases there. Try a new restaurant or two in town. Take a weekend vacation somewhere nearby. The intent of stimulus checks isn’t just to directly provide money to those who have lost a job or seen pay cuts. It’s intended to stimulate the economy through retail consumption, too.

Because some people have suffered from the health and economic effects of the pandemic worse than others, it’s important people consider how they might help others with their stimulus check. The United Way’s COVID-19 Relief Fund is a good way to do that.

Josh Bergeron is editor of the Salisbury Post.

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