On Tuesday, March 17, Benjamin Majchrzak, the co-owner of a recording studio in St. Louis, Missouri, launched a GoFundMe campaign. “Many of the musicians and industry people involved [in my business] are staring down a long and scary tunnel with no potential income for a very long time now,” he wrote. “The purpose of this fund,” Majcrzak explained, “is to try to help alleviate that stress and fear.” Since then, the campaign has raised more than $2,500.
In an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, events across the United States and beyond have been canceled, restaurants have shut down, and, in some places, all but the most essential of businesses have been ordered to close. Layoffs and work stoppages have followed in the shutdown’s wake. This is particularly terrifying for people who work as independent contractors and are typically ineligible for unemployment insurance. That includes most performers, creative freelancers, and Uber drivers.
Many have turned to the crowdfunding website GoFundMe in an attempt to compensate for their lost income and to help colleagues in need. Majchrzak writes that he plans to distribute his fund to musicians and other freelancers who apply for grants.
Over the last decade, GoFundMe has become a symbol for gaps in U.S. health care coverage, with the company’s CEO telling CBS earlier this year that one-third of donations raised through the site cover medical costs. As the economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus unfolds, GoFundMe may also become a grim window into gaps in the country’s unemployment insurance policies.
In the last two weeks, GoFundMe campaigns have been launched to raise funds for local service workers impacted by the cancellation of South by Southwest in Austin, Texas; for stadium workers affected by the suspension of NBA and NHL seasons; and for low-income students at the Rhode Island School of Design, who may no longer have access to financial aid. Countless other individuals have posted GoFundMe campaigns to raise funds for themselves, citing missed tips, reduced gigs, and dried up…