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    How 5 Kinds Of Mutual Aid Projects Are Helping People Get Through The Pandemic (And How You Can Get Involved)

    We get by with a little help from our friends.

    While certain politicians are taking trips to Cancún and dining indoors with lobbyists in Napa Valley, many regular people are turning to mutual aid projects instead of the government for help during the coronavirus pandemic.

    GIPHY News / Via

    Different from charities and nonprofits, mutual aid projects are a type of political participation in which community members take responsibility for one another. Instead of emailing your representative in hopes that they'll do something, mutual aid focuses on pooling resources locally. In other words, mutual aid is about solidarity, not charity.

    The impact of COVID-19 on Americans' health and economic wellbeing — coupled with the failure of local, state, and federal governments to provide comprehensive assistance — has spawned many mutual aid projects, raising awareness of the idea.

    Though it's growing in popularity now, you should know that mutual aid is nothing new.

    Here are five common kinds of mutual aid projects and how to find them in your community:

    Mutual aid can take many forms, and you might find that different kinds of assistance other than these are needed in your neighborhood. Just think of this list as a jumping off point to start making a difference.

    1. Community fridges supply free food to anyone who needs or wants it.

    2. Bail funds help people who have been arrested get out of jail by covering the costs of bailing them out.

    directory of community bail funds
    National Bail Fund Network / Via

    Remember the rush to donate to bail funds during the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests? In an effort to get arrested protestors out of jail, passionate donors gave in droves to the Minnesota Freedom Fund. The fund went from having an annual budget of under $200,000 to raising over $30 million.

    Bail funds as we know them today have existed before the 2020 protests — the first official bail funds were organized in the 1920s, but this kind of aid has roots dating back to before the Civil War, when Black communities would pool resources to buy a loved one's freedom. Today, bail funds help people who have been arrested and not yet tried for a crime make bail if they can’t afford it. In the spirit of mutual aid, individuals usually don’t need to pay the bail fund back, unlike getting out with a bail bond agent.

    For help finding a bail fund in your area, check out the National Bail Fund Network’s database. Once you've found a fund, you can help by giving money or volunteering your time.

    3. Housing funds exist to help people pay their rent so they can stay in their homes.

    4. Food distribution events are another way that mutual aid groups feed their neighborhoods.

    5. Finally, grocery delivery projects bring food and other necessities right to people's homes.

    And if you can't find mutual aid near you and you want to make a difference, there are resources out there that can help you start your own project.

    Holly Logan / @ComedianHollyLogan / Via

    This Mutual Aid 101 guide from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and organizer Mariame Kaba breaks down the process of setting up your own mutual aid project with simple, step-by-step instructions.

    Do you know of a mutual aid group that's helping people near you? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

    And check out the rest of our personal finance articles for more money tips.