In Coronavirus Recession, the Out-of-Work Turn to GoFundMe

Jim Mimna, a concert photographer in the Denver area, was on the phone with a friend recently when the conversation turned to his finances. Mr. Mimna’s business was in free fall and he worried he would get evicted because he couldn’t pay the rent.

Shortly afterward, his friend, Joe Michaels, pulled up the crowdfunding website GoFundMe and created a page labeled “Our Fave Photog Needs Our Help.” He shared it on Facebook and, within days, the fundraiser surpassed its goal of $4,500.

GoFundMe has long been associated with life’s ups and downs—moonshot inventions and emergency-room bills alike. In the pandemic, it is also becoming a go-to place for people to get help with rent and groceries.

That so many Americans are now dependent on the kindness of neighbors speaks to the deepening inequality between those who can navigate the coronavirus recession and those who can’t. The government’s social-safety programs, such as food stamps and unemployment, weren’t designed to support the large numbers of people who have needed them during the pandemic.

“I hope the GoFundMe evidence might be used to show we must do a better job with our social protection system,” said William Arnone, chief executive of the National Academy of Social Insurance, a nonprofit that researches Social Security and related programs. “Whatever we’re doing now is not working for too many people.”

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