The consensus of economic experts is that the United States will recover from the financial damage incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. What’s not a consensus is when that will happen.

As states continue to lift restrictions and businesses continue to resume operations, the recovery process begins to slowly unfold. That’s not to say things can’t continue to get a little worse before starting to get better. That’s likely to occur; the downward trend won’t reverse itself immediately.

Economically, we, the people, make a difference. Consumer spending is the number-one driver of our economy, accounting for about two-thirds of all economic activity. What we do, collectively, makes a difference. What we do, individually, is what makes up our collective action. All our economic actions, together, make the difference. 

We know some businesses won’t be coming back. Some big ones have already failed; many small and local businesses won’t survive to see the other side of this crisis. 

As we look forward, knowing recovery is both possible and likely, there is the issue of what we, the drivers of this economy, can do to provide aid. What can we do to help ourselves by helping the economy recover during coronavirus?

Stay Safe

Number one is health. What we do after that is whatever we choose, but unless we stay healthy — individually and collectively, we won’t be able to move forward economically.

Care for Others

This crisis, like others before it, doesn’t affect everyone equally. Some people have suffered severe financial hardship; others little or none. Local relief agencies are being pushed to meet unprecedented needs. 

If you are in a position where you are able to do so, you can help others.

As a general rule, donations are appreciated, but cash is king. Agencies can often do far more with financial resources than they can with goods. Cash allows them to meet specific urgent needs and also allows them to leverage these funds for maximum gain. 

Support Local Businesses

Small and local businesses may not have the resources of larger organizations to weather the crisis. And small businesses are the country’s major employer. There are a number of ways to support local businesses.

Restaurants and bars are among the hardest hit establishments. In many places, these businesses were forced to close and will be among the last to reopen completely.

If takeout or delivery is an option, it is a great way to support these businesses and help them retain at least some staff. You may think a $20 or $30 order doesn’t make a difference, but we need to remember that it’s not the single order — it’s the collection of many orders. Your order does make a difference because all the orders add up.

Other local businesses that were forced to close may offer online purchases.

Before placing an order with a national retailer, see if you can obtain the merchandise locally and support a local business. 

Continuing services that you can afford also supports local business. If you have a lawn service, or other local provider, that you can continue to use, do so; that in turn helps the economy. Some services had to cease due to the pandemic; others continue to operate. Most service businesses are local and can use the money and the support.

Support the Arts

Local theaters have been hit hard by this downturn. Many operate with minimal reserves and are in need of support. They may not be able to reopen quickly, and can use some support in the form of donations. In many cases, you can also buy season or individual tickets well in advance, providing the theaters with much-needed funds. 

Shop Your Big-Ticket Items

Some retailers that appear to be closed are still doing business. Car dealerships in my area look idle, but you can still negotiate and buy cars. What a fantastic time to do so if you were in the market anyway. 

You can do nearly everything via internet and phone — no sitting uncomfortably in some little office for far too long trying to hammer out a decent deal. 

You should not go buy a car just to help the economy, but if you were going to buy one anyway, you may still be able to do so — and you may be in the driver’s seat when it comes to negotiations.

Improve Your Financial Literacy

This crisis has highlighted, for many people, the cost of not planning ahead financially. Those who were financially prepared to deal with any emergency life could throw at them suffered less, financially, in the crisis. Those with emergency funds and other available resources also likely suffered less financial stress. 

Certainly, it is more difficult for some people to get ahead than it is for others. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done — the more difficult it is to get ahead financially the more important it is to get ahead financially. Being financially literate isn’t about becoming rich; that’s a different proposition entirely.

Being financially literate is about making good informed financial decisions. 

If we as a society made good and informed financial decisions, we would have a healthier economy — both on a personal level (our personal economies would be healthier) and on a national level. 

The Bottom Line on Helping the Economy Recover During Coronavirus

When we fly commercially, during the safety briefing the flight attendants always tell us, that in the event of an emergency we should put on our own oxygen mask before helping others. That’s sound advice in many areas. We can help others only when we are in a position to do so; we have to keep ourselves healthy, physically and financially, in order to be able to help others.

Our economy is driven by consumer spending. But wasting money doesn’t help. We can help only when we are working from the standpoint of making good and informed financial decisions. It doesn’t help to go into debt to support local business; it does help if we are doing something that we can comfortably afford to do. 

What we the people do will have far greater positive impact in helping the economy recover during and after the coronavirus pandemic than anything the government does.

We can be selective and effective. They will never be efficient because they are being political. That’s unfortunate. And many things the government may do don’t work the same way they used to. Infrastructure building isn’t done with axes and shovels anymore; it doesn’t drive employment at the same level it did 100 years ago. 

We can, and do, make a difference. We can’t individually bring back our economy. We can, however, help it recover collectively.