6 Charities Providing Coronavirus Relief—And How You Can Help

Direct Relief is shipping masks and other personal protective equipment to healthcare institutions around the nation.
Direct Relief is shipping masks and other personal protective equipment to healthcare institutions around the nation.
Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for Qantas

Right now, many charities are working hard to enact coronavirus-specific response plans that will alleviate the effects of the pandemic on both local and national levels. And while you yourself might not be able to send medical equipment to a hospital or serve dinner directly to a family in need, you could donate to organizations that are doing exactly that. From food banks to disaster relief foundations, here are six charities worth checking out if you’re looking for ways to help.

1. Feeding America

With a network of 200 food banks (where the food is stored) and 60,000 food pantries (where it’s distributed to people in need) across all 50 states (as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico), Feeding America is the largest hunger relief organization in the U.S. In addition to transitioning to drive-through and outdoor food distribution to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, it’s also currently focusing on providing food to children who, in the wake of school closures, are missing out on meals they’d normally get at school.

You can donate to the COVID-19 Response Fund and let the folks at Feeding America decide where and how your money will have the biggest impact, or you can find a food bank near you through this map, and donate right to that one.

2. Direct Relief

Since its establishment in 1948, Direct Relief has been providing communities around the world with assistance tailored to their specific needs, be it disease prevention, disaster relief, general healthcare, or something else. Its coronavirus response plan is centered on delivering personal protective equipment (like gowns and masks) and other necessary medical products to healthcare institutions around the country, and also helping those institutions expand tele-health programs, COVID-19 testing capabilities, and more. You can make a donation here.

3. Family Promise

Family Promise provides low-income and homeless families with temporary housing, meals, educational programs, and other resources that help them achieve sustainable independence. With the influx of school and business shutdowns, many of those families are especially vulnerable right now, and Family Promise’s services are even more important.

You can donate to their COVID-19 relief fund here, or you can search for a Family Promise affiliate location near you and donate directly there. If you’d rather donate goods than money, Family Promise is a great option, since many of the affiliates’ sites include wish lists of items in high demand.

4. Feed the Front Lines

Feed the Front Lines is a food-focused charity with a specific demographic: healthcare workers and food service employees. Founded this year by New York restaurant owner Luca Di Pietro, the organization is helping New York restaurants stay in business during the shutdown by pivoting to producing meals for medical professionals who are working nonstop to combat the novel coronavirus. So far, they’ve delivered nearly 32,000 free meals to hospitals and medical centers around the city, including Lenox Hill Hospital, NYU Langone Health, and more.

It’s $25 to donate one meal (though you can enter a custom amount), and you have the option to choose which healthcare center it goes to. And while Feed the Front Lines began in New York, other cities have followed suit with similar services; there are currently Feed the Front Lines organizations in Boston, Miami, Sacramento, Toronto, and more.

5. NYC Health + Hospitals

Because New York is dealing with one of the most devastating coronavirus outbreaks in the country right now, here’s another New York-based organization that would greatly appreciate a little extra help. As the largest public healthcare system in the U.S., NYC Health + Hospitals employs more than 42,000 people across more than 70 locations. All hands are on deck during this crisis, and while healthcare workers are busy taking care of patients, they need us to take care of them. Donations go toward meals, laundry services, pre-packaged groceries, and even hotel rooms so they can self-isolate from their families between their shifts. You can make a donation here.

6. CDC Foundation

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are funded by the government, but there’s a nonprofit organization called the CDC Foundation that helps them expand their capabilities with donations from the private sector. Right now, the Foundation has an emergency response fund set up to cover coronavirus-related activities like helping communities prevent and detect COVID-19 cases, deploying trained staff members to specific areas in need of extra hands, developing awareness campaigns to combat misinformation, and more. Find out additional information and donate here.

12 Creative Ways to Spend Your FSA Money Before the Deadline

stockfour/iStock via Getty Images
stockfour/iStock via Getty Images

If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), chances are, time is running out for you to use that cash. Depending on your employer’s rules, if you don’t spend your FSA money by the end of the grace period, you potentially lose some of it. Lost cash is never a good thing.

For those unfamiliar, an FSA is an employer-sponsored spending account. You deposit pre-tax dollars into the account, and you can spend that money on a number of health care expenses. It’s kind of like a Health Savings Account (HSA), but with a few big differences—namely, your HSA funds roll over from year to year, so there’s no deadline to spend it all. With an FSA, though, most of your funds expire at the end of the year. Bummer.

The good news is: The law allows employers to roll $500 over into the new year and also offer a grace period of up to two and a half months to use that cash (March 15). Depending on your employer, you might not even have that long, though. The deadline is fast approaching for many account holders, so if you have to use your FSA money soon, here are a handful of creative ways to spend it.

1. Buy some new shades.

Head to the optometrist, get an eye prescription, then use your FSA funds to buy some new specs or shades. Contact lenses and solution are also covered.

You can also buy reading glasses with your FSA money, and you don’t even need a prescription.

2. Try acupuncture.

Scientists are divided on the efficacy of acupuncture, but some studies show it’s useful for treating chronic pain, arthritis, and even depression. If you’ve been curious about the treatment, now's a good time to try it: Your FSA money will cover acupuncture sessions in some cases. You can even buy an acupressure mat without a prescription.

If you’d rather go to a chiropractor, your FSA funds cover those visits, too.

3. Stock up on staples.

If you’re running low on standard over-the-counter meds, good news: Most of them are FSA-eligible. This includes headache medicine, pain relievers, antacids, heartburn meds, and anything else your heart (or other parts of your body) desires.

There’s one big caveat, though: Most of these require a prescription in order to be eligible, so you may have to make an appointment with your doctor first. The FSA store tells you which over-the-counter items require a prescription.

4. Treat your feet.

Give your feet a break with a pair of massaging gel shoe inserts. They’re FSA-eligible, along with a few other foot care products, including arch braces, toe cushions, and callus trimmers.

In some cases, foot massagers or circulators may be covered, too. For example, here’s one that’s available via the FSA store, no prescription necessary.

5. Get clear skin.

Yep—acne treatments, toner, and other skin care products are all eligible for FSA spending. Again, most of these require a prescription for reimbursement, but don’t let that deter you. Your doctor is familiar with the rules and you shouldn’t have trouble getting a prescription. And, as WageWorks points out, your prescription also lasts for a year. Check the rules of your FSA plan to see if you need a separate prescription for each item, or if you can include multiple products or drug categories on a single prescription.

While we’re on the topic of faces, lip balm is another great way to spend your FSA funds—and you don’t need a prescription for that. There’s also no prescription necessary for this vibrating face massager.

6. Fill your medicine cabinet.

If your medicine cabinet is getting bare, or you don’t have one to begin with, stock it with a handful of FSA-eligible items. Here are some items that don’t require a prescription:

You can also stock up on first aid kits. You don’t need a prescription to buy those, and many of them come with pain relievers and other medicine.

7. Make sure you’re covered in the bedroom.

Condoms are FSA-eligible, and so are pregnancy tests, monitors, and fertility kits. Female contraceptives are also covered when you have a prescription.

8. Prepare for your upcoming vacation.

If you have a vacation planned this year, use your FSA money to stock up on trip essentials. For example:

9. Get a better night’s sleep.

If you have trouble sleeping, sleep aids are eligible, though you’ll need a prescription. If you want to try a sleep mask, many of them are eligible without a prescription. For example, there’s this relaxing sleep mask and this thermal eye mask.

For those nights you’re sleeping off a cold or flu, a vaporizer can make a big difference, and those are eligible, too (no prescription required). Bed warmers like this one are often covered, too.

Your FSA funds likely cover more than you realize, so if you have to use them up by the deadline, get creative. This list should help you get started, and many drugstores will tell you which items are FSA-eligible when you shop online.

10. Go to the dentist.

While basics like toothpaste and cosmetic procedures like whitening treatments aren’t FSA eligible, most of the expenses you incur at your dentist’s office are. That includes co-pays and deductibles as well as fees for cleanings, x-rays, fillings, and even the cost of braces. There are also some products you can buy over-the-counter without ever visiting the dentist. Some mouthguards that prevent you from grinding your teeth at night are eligible, as are cleaning solutions for retainers and dentures.

11. Try some new gadgets.

If you still have some extra cash to burn, it’s a great time to try some expensive high-tech devices that you’ve been curious about but might not otherwise want to splurge on. The list includes light therapy treatments for acne, vibrating nausea relief bands, electrical stimulation devices for chronic pain, cloud-connected stethoscopes, and smart thermometers.

12. Head to Amazon.

There are plenty of FSA-eligible items available on Amazon, including items for foot health, cold and allergy medication, eye care, and first-aid kits. Find out more details on how to spend your FSA money on Amazon here.

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Starbucks Is Giving Free Coffee to Frontline COVID-19 Workers All Month Long

Starbucks is saying thank you in typical Starbucks fashion.
Starbucks is saying thank you in typical Starbucks fashion.

Starbucks is showing its support for those individuals on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 this holiday season by giving the gift of free coffee—all month long.

From now through December 31, any health care worker or other frontline worker can get a tall hot or iced coffee whenever they stop by Starbucks. The offer extends to just about anybody in a medical profession, including doctors, nurses, public health administrators, pharmacists, paramedics, dentists and dental hygienists, therapists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and other mental health professionals. Non-medical hospital personnel—including members of the janitorial, housekeeping, and security staffs—also qualify, as do emergency dispatchers, firefighters, police officers, and active-duty members of the military.

To address the pandemic’s emotional toll on essential workers, Starbucks has also contributed $100,000 to the National Alliance on Mental Illness to be used for virtual mental health services; and the company will give out 50,000 Starbucks care packages and gift cards to frontline workers across the country. While the main goal is to show gratitude to those keeping the nation afloat during an extremely difficult time, Starbucks is also hoping their initiative can be an example for other companies with resources to spare.

“Hopefully other brands will join us in thinking about how [they can] use their platform to again show support,” Virginia Tenpenny, Starbucks's vice president of global social impact, told USA TODAY. “Little deposits in morale can really go a long way, just so that they feel the support from our community.”

It’s not the first time Starbucks has spearheaded a long-term coffee giveaway this year; between March and May, the company handed out more than 2 million free cups of joe to professionals helping the country through the coronavirus pandemic. The Starbucks Foundation has also donated several million dollars to relief funds, food banks, and local organizations.

[h/t USA Today]