With more and more states issuing shelter-in-place directions to help stop the spread of COVID-19, a.k.a. the coronavirus, going out for anything besides essential goods may not be possible. The shutdowns are necessary and effective, of course, but they’re affecting small businesses. Owners are getting creative with ways to keep business moving. For example, restaurants and bars are offering to-go meals and drinks; retailers are putting together and shipping care packages. But the longer doors are closed, the harder things become for these businesses and their employees.

There are still ways to support your favorite businesses while you’re practicing social distancing (seriously, stay the F home). We talked with a few small business owners for suggestions on how we can help them in these unpredictable, unprecedented times—including how to assist if you don’t have extra funds to do so.

Buy Gift Cards
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One way to help that was suggested over and over again: buying gift cards. Small businesses need cash right now, so make a list of businesses you want to support and set a budget. Split your dollars between them. If you don’t see digital gift cards on an establishment’s website, give them a call or send an email to see what options they have available. If they don’t have digital gift cards yet and you have the knowhow to help make that happen, offer your talents.

Save the gift cards for after all of this to give to loved ones or treat yourself.

Pay by Card
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In the cases where you’re going inside establishments to get groceries or pharmaceuticals or to pick up food, leave the cash at home. Credit cards don’t have to change hands as much as they used to, so you’ll minimize the cashier’s contact with you. Think about how many people they’re ringing up in a day. Use plastic if it’s possible to save them one more physical interaction.

Take-Out or Delivery
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Many restaurants and bars are closed to follow the social distancing guidelines and prevent people from gathering. To which I say, thank goodness. But they’re still working, making food and, in some cases, cocktails. In California, the rules have been adjusted so bars can offer to-go cocktails—they’re sealed and ready for you to enjoy once you’re, you know, not in a moving vehicle.

See what options your favorite local restaurant has for take-out or delivery. Order directly through them if you can and follow whatever guidelines they’ve established. For instance, maybe they have a designated location outside for picking-up food or are only allowing customers in one at a time to get their meals. Abide by their rules, for the love of Pete.

If you’re all set on food, consider covering meals for a friend or neighbor in need.

Sick? Stay the F Home

Do not go to a business, small or otherwise, if you’re sick. Stay home. Call businesses about contactless delivery options. Maybe they can leave what you need on your doorstep.

Curbside Pick-Up or Shipping
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Nonessential stores have had to limit their business, too. While many are not open to customers for browsing, they’re following social distancing limits by taking orders over the phone or online. I’ve seen bookstores offering curbside pick-up and shipping packages. Other businesses may offer free local delivery. So whether you’re in need of some books, some DIY kits to keep you busy, some more comfortable work-from-home pants, or some lotion to keep your hands moisturized after all the thorough hand washing I know you’re doing, browse wares from small businesses first.

Don’t forget: small businesses include creators. See if artists you like are offering commissions or ask a propmaker you follow online about making a cosplay component.

Social Media Support

You may not have additional funds to give to small businesses, but you can still give them a boost. Leave reviews for products you’ve purchased in the past from Etsy. Drop comments on social media posts because it will help the algorithms show the posts to more viewers. Shout out your favorite small businesses on social media too, and be sure to tag them or link their shop.


Do you have a local newspaper you like? Maybe a local brewery or winery that offers memberships? A creator’s Patreon you’ve been eyeing? Now’s the time to commit and sign up. See if they offer discounts for joining for a longer period of time and do that if you can. It gives them an influx of cash and a measure of stability (any of that is welcome right now). Share what you get from the membership on social media with links so others can join as well.

Be Kind

It should go without saying, but however you interact with businesses and each other right now, be kind. Be patient. Remember that the grocery store check-out person doesn’t deserve your anger because all the eggs are gone. Check in with business owners you know and see how they’re doing. We’re all just humans trying to survive this reality, which feels unreal. Kindness is the least we can do.

And finally, let’s not forget all the people, especially hourly workers, who are finding themselves in dire straits because of COVID-19 closures. Government relief efforts may already be in the works, but crowdsourced fundraisers like this GoFundMe gather more money to help with hourly workers’ basic needs.

Featured Image: Amy Ratcliffe

Amy Ratcliffe is the Managing Editor for Nerdist and the author of Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy. Follow her on  Twitter.