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Andrew Yang's nonprofit to donate $1 million to families impacted by coronavirus

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Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang's brand-new nonprofit plans to contribute more than $1 million to working families impacted by the novel coronavirus outbreak in New York City and across the country, the group announced Friday.

The Humanity Forward Fund, a nonprofit founded by Yang after he suspended his 2020 presidential campaign, will begin sending $1,000 over the next couple of weeks to 1,000 households in New York City's Bronx borough.

"We figured out very quickly that people are going to need money immediately. And our government should do this," Andrew Yang told CBS News in a phone interview on Friday. "[This fund] exists to demonstrate the power of these ideas, so we started giving money out immediately."

Yang is no stranger to cash stipends. Before the coronavirus crisis in the U.S., Yang, then a presidential candidate, proposed granting every adult American monthly payments of $1,000, turning the concept of "Universal Basic Income" into a household name, for many.  His presidential campaign launched a "Freedom Dividend Pilot Program" to test and promote his signature policy, in December 2019.

Yet distributing cash fast to 1,000 households brought to light larger logistical problems amid CDC-mandated social distancing. "It actually took us a little while to figure out how we could give that money effectively to people in the Bronx who needed it," Yang said. "The tricky thing is actually trying to get money to people who need it at a time when you know you shouldn't be knocking on doors."

While the former presidential candidate initially reached out to Citigroup and J.P. Morgan for assistance, privacy regulations prevented the entrepreneur from partnering with banks. Ultimately, the nonprofit teamed up with Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners and the Collective Education PAC to distribute stipends, targeting struggling families as businesses furlough hourly employees, faced with the spread of COVID-19.

The group will also work hand in hand with One Fair Wage (OFW), contributing to the "Emergency Coronavirus Tipped and Service Worker Support Fund" to benefit service workers across New York City who are stifled by the economic shutdown.  

"With the closing of all of the bars and restaurants, and now, essentially nail salons and gyms and everything else, New York has tens, even hundreds of thousands of service workers who now don't have a source of income," Andrew Yang told CBS News in a phone interview on Friday. "And New York is also the most densely populated city in our country. So if there's any place you would want people to have the ability to stay home, not have to worry about where their next grocery money or rent check is going to come from, it would be in New York, in a place like the Bronx."

In an effort to inspire more awareness and giving online, the fund has also pledged $100,000 in micro-grants of $250 or $500 distributed directly via social media networks – TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.  "Clearly, if your neighbor is struggling, you should help them. But the truth is that some people will be on social media an awful lot because we're all trapped at home," Yang conceded. "And so if you can find a way for someone to be engaged that's actually productive via social media, either to get help or give help, that struck us as very positive."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set a deadline of 11:59 p.m. Friday for bipartisan agreement on the mounting stimulus package that could push $1 trillion and include direct payments to U.S. households reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yang tweeted Tuesday that his team "has been in touch with the White House" and is offering up further resources. The former presidential candidate says while he's thrilled "common sense is prevailing," there will be no victory lap. Yang has encouraged lawmakers to think beyond one-time payments to families hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. "To me, we don't know how long this crisis is going to continue. You want people to have confidence that their family is going to be okay, even if this crisis drags on for a while," Yang told CBS News. "So instead of one check you should be looking at regular checks once a month or even more frequent, so that we have our basic needs met, even if this does drag on for quite some time."

Despite dropping out of the race, Yang – who endorsed Joe Biden earlier this month — predicts monthly payments to American families will be "a major topic" in the upcoming presidential election and legislative sessions. "I think both parties are going to be embracing it to a much higher degree. And I believe it's going to end up passing here in the United States in the next number of months," he said.

Hunkered down in his own home in New York, Yang expresses remorse in hearing the personal stories of former campaign staff, friends and neighbors, isolated by quarantine and social distancing. "I am deeply concerned that this pandemic is going to cut us off from each other at a time when what we need is actually the ability to help each other," Yang said. "And certainly I'm doing everything I can to help by sending money digitally, but that is not what most people need. Most people need things in person and face to face. That's the way we're wired as people. And so I think it's very hard to see a silver lining in this crisis."

Alan He contributed to this report.

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