This is a letter to the editor from Michi Schulenberg of Ithaca. To submit opinion letters, please review our letters policy here and submit them to Managing Editor Thomas Giery Pudney at

As I read about the Federal emergency bill that includes a direct payment to all who are filed in the IRS system, I wonder about the equity of the help being given. I am among the lucky to be living in a family where at least one member continues to be employed and receive a paycheck. Many are not so lucky, or the one paycheck they still have is not adequate to support the whole family. I myself am furloughed and I fear many of my co-workers are in this latter group. We do not know how long this necessary shut down of business as usual will last. And, even when work starts up again, it may take many small businesses some time to regain their footing. $1,200 will not be nearly enough for many people to survive this extended period without significant or even catastrophic pain (even if granted rent, mortgage and utility payment freezes or forgiveness).

I would like to suggest those of us in the lucky group donate some or all of our $1,200 to a fund to help those in the unlucky group. Political conservatives scoff at income redistribution. Progressives call for it to make a better community. As a progressive, I agree that the redistribution should have been done at the formulation of the emergency bill with less money going to corporations and more to small businesses and individuals. However, given what we have, I think this is the time for both conservatives and progressives who claim to care about their community to put their money where their mouths are.

I would suggest that funds be created at each small business that has been shut down or had to cut payroll into which people can send their donations. The small business owners and managers are in the best position to know the needs of their staff and have a duty to and a vested interest in supporting them through this crisis. Perhaps Tompkins County could establish a registry where people could submit how much they are donating to which business so that some accountability could be established. (Businesses listed would be required to submit a report at the end of all this on how they distributed the funds.) Some people don’t have a direct connection to a local small business and wouldn’t know where to donate. Perhaps, the county could also set up a general fund to be distributed rationally based on a business’s tax sales receipts, payroll taxes, what has already been directly donated to them or whatever useful metrics are available. Again, a full report of funds received, distributed and metrics used would be generated at the end.

I think this has a better chance of keeping those $1,200 checks supporting our local economy than all of us buying things online from big corporations. Even if those who are helped by this redistribution scheme end up having to buy online, we are helping our neighbors and community first.

Michi Schulenberg


Featured photo courtesy of Marco Verch