USA: Muslim groups join forces to raise $500,000 for coronavirus relief grants

By Aysha Khan

A Muslim-led crowd-funding campaign has raised nearly $500,000 to offer micro-grants to low-income American families whose livelihoods have been hurt by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Facing a “tsunami” of requests for aid, the coronavirus relief campaign has already sent assistance checks of between $250 to $1,000 to more than 660 households across the country, benefitting about 2,100 individuals of all and no faiths.

The initiative, which began March 14 on the Muslim crowd funding platform LaunchGood, was organized by Islamic educational non-profit CelebrateMercy, relief organization Penny Appeal USA and the Islamic Center at New York University.

“We want the country to know that we are a vital organ to society, even though often Muslims are being portrayed as somewhat of a tumor to society,” said Tarek El-Messidi, director of CelebrateMercy, a non-profit that teaches about the Prophet Muhammad’s life and is known for fundraisers benefitting vandalized Jewish cemeteries,

“The Prophet Mohammed said the most beloved people to God are those who benefit others most,” El-Messidi explained. “Knowing that so many millions were going to lose jobs, to struggle to make ends meet, to pay rent, to pay bills, to pay for child care, we felt it was an immediate need and we wanted to help alleviate it for as many people as possible.”

By mid-April, White House officials say, most American adults will receive a $1,200 payment from the U.S. government as part of its $2.2 trillion economic relief plan. But layoffs, furloughs, closing businesses and positive COVID-19 tests have already wreaked havoc on Americans’ abilities to keep their homes and put food on their tables. In the past two weeks, nearly 10 million people filed for unemployment benefits, overwhelming states’ employment systems.

With that assistance still weeks away, organizers of the LaunchGood fund rushed to mail checks to applicants — prioritized based on a need-based point system — within days of receiving their requests.

“I’ve tried every resource out there, and this is the only outlet I’ve received any kind of response from,” one grant recipient named Jason said, per a statement from the campaign. “Even the unemployment office hasn’t gotten back to me … when I saw your email this morning, I finally was able to take a long needed deep breath.”

The campaign originally asked for $20,000, but after donors raised over $75,000 within a day, organizers began pushing the ceiling. Still, El-Messidi said, if they were surprised by the donations — coming from over 3,700 individual donors so far — they have been completely overwhelmed by the “shocking” need for aid.

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