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5 Ways to Stay Civically Engaged in the Age of COVID-19

Just because you’re stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t still be making an impact in your community. Here are five easy ways to make a difference during Greene County’s shelter-in-place ordinance.

By Claire Porter

Apr 02 2020 at 2:23 p.m.

Community Blood Center of the Ozarks
Photo by Claire PorterOur nation faces a critical shortage of blood. Take a few minutes out of your day to donate a pint at local organizations like the Community Blood Center of the Ozarks. Purchase Photo

Give a Pint and Donate Blood Locally

The American Red Cross has announced a severe blood shortage after blood drives have been canceled because of social distancing and shelter-in-place protocols. Due to the critical shortage, the FDA has loosened restrictions around who is eligible to donate. If you’re eligible, take a few minutes out of your day to make a donation. You can locate a drive through the American Red Cross, or you can donate locally at Community Blood Center of the Ozarks. Both organizations allow you to set up an appointment time to help limit your social contact and have online sign-up. 

Get Counted and Turn In Your 2020 Census

2020 is a census year, and although the whole questionnaire only takes about 10 minutes, it’ll at least fill some time between episodes of Tiger King. Before you begin, check your mail. The person who owns or rents your home should have received official communication from the U.S. Census Bureau with your census ID, which you can use to complete the questionnaire online at my2020census.gov. The census counts every living person in the country, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, and, under federal law, identifying responses to the census cannot be shared with public or federal agencies, including immigration authorities and law enforcement, until 72 years after that census. 

You are required by law to complete the census—if you do not complete the online survey, a paper questionnaire will be mailed to you, and if that doesn’t yield a response, a census worker might arrive at your home to collect your responses. Due to COVID-19, the bureau announced that it is extending the counting period deadline from July 31 to August 14. 

Although it can seem like a tedious task, the census is critically important to our community and its resources. Census data is used federally to draw districting lines, allocate Congressional seats and determine funding allocations for health care facilities, schools, roads and other public services. On local levels, the data informs the placement of supermarkets and other businesses and is used to aid first responders in emergency situations. 

Register to Vote in Time for Our New Election Day

Chances are, you have a lot of feelings about the state of the country in the wake of this pandemic. Whether you want to support current leadership or would like to see systemic change, voting is one of the best ways to make your voice heard. Why not use your time at home to make sure you’re equipped to participate in the next election? 

When: Missouri’s Municipal Elections have been moved from April 7 to June 2 by Executive Order by the governor. Currently, the presidential election is still scheduled for November 3. 

How: As of now, polls are still expected to be open for regular voting. However, to avoid further social contact, you can sign up for absentee voting. Absentee ballots allow you to fill out a paper ballot ahead of the election from the safety of your home. Ballots must be faxed or mailed by 5 p.m. on the second Wednesday prior to the election, or they can be submitted in person by 5 p.m. the night before the election. 

What if I’m not ready? Luckily, the new election date means you can still register to vote (the process can be done entirely online and takes only a few minutes) in time for June’s municipal election. Registrations must be submitted by the fourth Wednesday before the election. If you’re already registered to vote but have moved, make sure you update your address using the same form. Even if you plan to vote via absentee ballot in June, making your update now will set you up with the nearest polling place for the November election. Now is also a great time to ensure you have the proper forms of ID. If you are using your drivers license as ID, be sure to also update your address online to your current residence. 

Foster or Adopt a New Pet

Make the most of your time at home to foster (or adopt!) a pet from a local animal shelter. Because you’ll be home, you can help a pet adjust to your home, lifestyle and family easily, especially if that pet needs special attention or housebreaking. The added companionship—and the excuse to go on a walk—can’t be beat right now, either. While most shelters are still accepting adoption and fostering applications, some have adjusted their procedures in accordance with social distancing protocols, and others have moved to appointment only or halted adoptions and are seeking only fosters, so check with the individual shelter when you’ve found a furry friend you want to take home.

File Your Taxes and Get Your Economic Impact Payment

If you’re due for a refund, take advantage of your downtime to file your taxes. However, if you owe taxes and need to get crafty with your budget, know that the federal tax deadline to file and pay 2019 taxes has been extended to July 15, 2020. If you qualify for an economic impact payment, be sure you have filed at least a simple tax return sometime between now and 2018 to get your payment as a direct deposit. According to the Treasury Department and the IRS, “distribution of economic impact payments will begin in the next three weeks and will be distributed automatically, with no action required for most people. However, some taxpayers who typically do not file returns will need to submit a simple tax return to receive the economic impact payment.”