April 18, 2020

It’s evident that government assistance alone is not enough to fill the massive need of those without work and income, or who face additional challenges due to their age, health status, socioeconomic position, or similar factors. Private sector companies, nonprofits and individuals are stepping up, turning their business and philanthropic focus toward pandemic-related services that can help the most vulnerable.

How can each of us in entrepreneurship and technology help this effort — both by amplifying existing programs and creating new ones that get relief directly to those who need it most?

This week we focus on stories of heroes doing exactly that. May it inspire all of us to do more.

How can you continue “shelter in place” when you can’t pay rent?

One quarter of America’s renters were unable to pay their rent in April, according to a multifamily industry group, and it’s one of the biggest problems to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis. While the CARES Act includes protection for renters whose landlords have federally-backed mortgages or receive certain tax credits for providing affordable housing, there’s no government portal for information on whether you’re covered. Some states and municipalities have also enacted “no eviction” rules for landlords, but how long it can remain in effect is uncertain. Augrented uses public data and machine learning to rate apartments and landlords. Now they’re providing tools to help tenants reach out to their landlords and understand their own rights. The platform can help create a letter to request additional time to pay, or request a discount or rent waiver, in minutes. It’s called a landlord letter generator and their communication tool has already been used to request over $1m in rent relief. Unfortunately, not every landlord is willing to accommodate families who can’t pay due to lost income: by the time the protections expire, Augrented will also be offering the first “scan to respond” eviction defense assistant, in partnership with regional tenants’ rights and access-to-justice groups.

Lost your restaurant or hotel job? How about going from hospitality to hospitals?

Many restaurant and hospitality workers have found themselves out of work with no idea if or when they will be able to return. Due to COVID-19, the healthcare industry has a sudden, unprecedented need for more workers. Home care was just designated “an essential industry”.  Arena a job candidate sourcing service, matches workers (even those with no experience) to jobs. Through September, Arena is offering free help to facilities caring for at-risk residents and caregivers by applying data insights in an effort to match workers to jobs in healthcare. Healthcare organizations as a whole are estimated to be caring for 12M or more at-risk residents; and they are struggling to find a sufficient number of exceptional caregivers. Interested candidates with backgrounds in the hospitality industry can sign up here to be matched to healthcare jobs. Interested providers can sign up here to receive Arena recommended job applicants.

Applicants should ensure that home health care operators have proper personal protective equipment (PPE). According to a recent survey of 1,200 homecare workers by the Homecare Association of America, 77% didn’t have enough masks and 57% didn’t have enough gloves.

VCs and Tech Firms Give Direct Relief to the Hardest Hit

In six weeks, the United States shifted from a 50-year-low unemployment rate to likely the highest one since the Great Depression. Now GiveDirectly.org has announced $3m in new funding from Google CEO Sundar PichaiGoogle.org and Flourish Ventures. Managing Partner of Flourish, Emmalyn Shaw, said, “As institutional investors in financial innovation, we chose to donate through GiveDirectly and Propel because these organizations have created the fastest route to put relief funds into the hands of individuals and families who have suffered immediate impacts caused by this global pandemic. Propel is a venture-backed startup distributing an app called Fresh EBT to help SNAP recipients receive and budget their food dollars. SNAP is a US federal public assistance program that helps low-income Americans buy food. They are asking other investment firms and technology companies to join in this campaign.

Teletherapy and Telemedicine expanded for vulnerable seniors

Seniors are not the only ones suffering from uncertainty and anxiety during this pandemic, but many of them live alone which can heighten feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression. Medicare has expanded insurance coverage for telehealth services for those 65 and over. While this improvement will enable most of the 44 million Medicare beneficiaries to use teletherapy, people with private insurance plans may have to negotiate coverage. Following the government’s lead, however, a number of insurance companies have begun to provide at least temporary coverage for teletherapy services at the same rates as in-person sessions. It’s important to check with your insurance company about current coverage — and maybe even more important to advocate for coverage if they don’t offer it.

Having a tough time figuring out how to see a doctor or get your elderly relative to see one when they don’t have COVID19? Telemedicine (or telehealth) has been growing slowly over the last 30 years, but it’s experiencing a surge during the pandemic. There are a number of services helping to keep at-risk patients in nursing homes connected.

The virus can spread like wildfire through senior care facilities and we are seeing it nationwide in many cities. VitalTech’s Virtual Care/Telehealth platform helps screen residents quickly for COVID-19 symptoms to triage emergency care. It can also monitor patients virtually and set up care plans. The VitalCare platform allows monitoring of patients’ self-reported vitals. There’s also an app that allows for social engagement, keeping family and loved ones connected during times of social isolation.

The incarcerated caring for themselves….and others

Like nursing homes and cruise ships, prison and jails can be hotbeds for the coronavirus. One county commissioner told the New York Times that “jails are like petri dishes”. In many jails, hand sanitizer is not even allowed because of the high alcohol content. Inmates might feel especially vulnerable because social distancing is often nearly impossible to accomplish inside crowded jails. Now several correctional facilities across the country are asking inmates to make face masks for themselves and staff. And inmates in Iowa and California are providing masks for nearby communities.

Startups aiming to bolster resources for healthcare workers on the frontline

Medical staff even in many hospitals are anxious and feel inadequately prepared. Patient care can be inconsistent and frontline staff across the country are falling ill. As a surge hits, practices within a hospital can change quickly. Elemeno Health, a digital health startup, offers a team-based medical information platform that staff can customize for their organization. Frontline staff can access the most current practices, checklists, and videos needed to deliver the best care possible, and to stay safe. It’s sort of a personal assistant for doctors and nurses. An early stage startup already providing services to hospitals in the San Francisco Bay Area, they have a crowdfunding page to raise money.

A few more pivots for good

TaskRabbit is calling for volunteers to help support a new mission. Tasks for Good is intended to benefit individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic immunocompromised, elderly, disabled, healthcare workers), as well as certain kinds of organizations (non-profits, government agencies, community-based organizations, local small businesses) that are experiencing financial hardships, by providing volunteer support. All of the tasks completed under Tasks for Good can also be booked in TaskRabbit’s regular marketplace. The new volunteer marketplace connects vulnerable individuals and organizations with local Taskers who are donating their time and skills to support their communities. The expanding Tasks for Good program is launching in 17 cities across three countries to do just that.

Sometimes those serving the needy already…..found the need to pivot

Reach Potential Movement usually equips underserved youth and families with leadership, learning and life skills to strengthen the community in Silicon Valley. Now with COVID19, they are focused exclusively on providing food, shelter, social services, and other necessities of life for the economically disadvantaged and otherwise needy individuals, in accordance with the county and state shelter-in-place requirements. Their reach extends even so far as providing food to homeless people living in cars. https://www.reachpotential.org

Connecting entrepreneurs and investors

FounderNest, an Ulu portfolio company, is helping investors and companies find each other and connect in these difficult days of the pandemic. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began they’ve been in contact with founders and investors from all over the world. The common denominator is uncertainty. Founders are desperately trying to increase their runway but are unclear about which investors are actively investing during a looming global recession.

FounderNest decided to open up their network to any active founder and investor in the world, and their platform to any startup-investor network or ecosystem that aims to better connect founders and investors during these challenging times. Ulupreneur and FounderNest co-founder Miguel Gonzalez outlines some immediates steps to help entrepreneurs and investors connect.

Beauty can be found in small gestures (even at a social distance)

Acts of kindness can have such a positive effect on well-being, for both the giver and receiver. Grassroots efforts to help others in their neighborhoods or the community at large are growing. This piece highlights some folks in California who are doing everything from singing on the street for the neighbors, to gifting toilet paper, delivering groceries to the housebound and the list goes on. It’s not just happening here. Across the country, everyday people committing acts of grace have a powerful impact during a time of uncertainty and, for many, terrible loneliness.

If you’ve got good news about how entrepreneurs, research and/or businesses are stepping up, please share it with us! You can put a brief description and links in this Google doc.

All references and hyperlinks (to specific products, medical devices, processes, services, companies, stories, articles, or other materials) are for informational purposes only and do not constitute affiliation, endorsement, or recommendation by Ulu, or that such products have been approved by relevant governmental authorities. Nothing herein is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. All product and company names mentioned herein are the trademarks, service marks, or trade names of their respective owners and all rights are reserved to them.

About the Author: Miriam Rivera

, Let’s Get Direct Relief to the Most Vulnerable Now!
Miriam Rivera is co-founder and managing director of Ulu Ventures