Opinion

Private Sector Steps Up to the Plate to Help Americans During Pandemic

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Posted: Apr 08, 2020 12:01 AM
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Private Sector Steps Up to the Plate to Help Americans During Pandemic

Source: AP Photo/Gerald Herber

Despite the extraordinary challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic, American businesses large and small are stepping up to the plate and working around the clock to help Americans in need. 

Private sector ingenuity and work ethic is enabling households to get the supplies they need while following CDC guidelines on social distancing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19. 

Amazon has added 100,000 jobs to allow millions of Americans to get the supplies and groceries they need from the safety of their homes. Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has also made a $100 million donation to Feeding America, the largest American nonprofit focused on food security. 

Uber is taking significant steps to fight the pandemic, including working with local health authorities to suspend accounts and distribute financial assistance to drivers that have contracted COVID-19. Uber has waived delivery fees for restaurants and has committed to donating 10 million rides and food deliveries to health care workers, seniors and people in need. A health care worker tweeted, “Today was a very long day looking after covid patients in picu, so thanks to Uber for the free ride home. Got home and showered before 9pm. Luxury! Rest, sleep, repeat.” New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said, “Thank you Uber and UberEats for taking care of our heroes on the front line.” Especially in this time of school closures and interrupted routines of home life, drivers benefit greatly from the flexibility afforded by being an independent contractor.

Companies large and small are donating supplies and retrofitting facilities to produce masks, ventilators, and other medical equipment. 

Apple recently announced that it is producing 1 million face shields a week for medical workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response. This comes on top of the company’s donation of 20 million N95 masks to governments and hospitals around the world. 

Ford and General Motors are retrofitting facilities and formerly-shuttered auto plants to build ventilators. Combined, the car companies will produce tens of thousands of ventilators a month once facilities are fully up and running. 

Despite bearing the brunt of this immense economic pressure, small businesses are doing all they can to help those in need. Hickey Freeman, a clothing retailer in Rochester, New York, has dedicated its operations to producing masks for local hospitals and beyond. More than 7,000 volunteers have contacted the company asking to help, and they soon will be able to produce hundreds of thousands of masks a week.

The healthcare industry is working at a record pace to ensure Americans are getting the care they need. Drug manufacturers already have numerous clinical trials underway to develop a coronavirus cure. Usually, it takes years of rigorous trials and testing to develop a vaccine, but time is drastically limited in the midst of a global pandemic. 

In the meantime, pharmaceutical companies are providing financial support and donating supplies to patients and organizations around the world. 

Bristol Myers Squibb is providing financial support to health care workers, patient advocacy organizations, and community organizations that serve vulnerable populations. GlaxoSmithKline is donating surplus reagents to countries to support diagnostic testing and allowing their employees with medical expertise to provide support to frontline healthcare workers and governments. Johnson and Johnson has donated nearly $4 million in PPE for frontline health care workers, and Merck has donated over 800,000 masks for health care workers in New York and New Jersey. 

Health plans are also stepping up to ensure that Americans don’t have to worry about coronavirus-related health expenses by covering testing. Aetna is waiving co-pays for all COVID-19 diagnostic testing, and Humana is providing financial and administrative relief to health care providers. Cigna is covering all costs related to coronavirus treatment, ensuring their customers will not pay a penny out of pocket to get treated. 

Technology companies are committing an unprecedented amount of money and computing resources towards supporting the medical supply clain. Wireline and wireless broadband networks are responding to COVID-19 by keeping the networks running smoothly, supporting displaced customers, and committing valuable resources to the fight against the virus.

Technology companies are also helping ordinary Americans get through this crisis by waiving late fees, providing unlimited data for users, and helping employees stay afloat with expanded compensation programs.

AT&T is waiving late fees and suspending termination of services for customers unable to pay bills due to the coronavirus pandemic. Comcast is providing unlimited data to customers for no extra charge, waiving late fees, and not disconnecting service for customers unable to pay their bills. Charter is offering free Spectrum internet and WiFi access for 60 days to households with K-12 or college students, as well as educators. Verizon is waiving late fees and cancellations for customers and implementing an enhanced compensation program for employees who need to work with customers in person during the pandemic.

Throughout history, American businesses have stepped up to the plate to help the nation in times of crisis. The extraordinary effort of American businesses to help those in need during the Coronavirus crisis is a silver lining in this dark cloud.