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1 in 3 new GoFundMe campaigns in U.S. are tied to the coronavirus

Several states shut down businesses
Several states shut down businesses as coronavirus death toll rises. 04:00

Los Angeles writer-performer Iris Bahr on Tuesday posted a somber update to the GoFundMe page she created to raise funds for the one-woman show she wrote and expected to star in for a two-week run in New York City in April.

"I'm sad to report that, as expected, my NY run of DAI 2.0 has been canceled. I'm extremely disappointed, not to mention dealing with the financial hit," she told her supporters. "Any support to help recoup some of my lost investment would be so greatly appreciated. Hoping I can share this work with you once Corona no longer binds us."

Bahr is seeking $5,000 in donations — less than what she spent to rent a theater and pay a director, composer and crew members, as well as handle the cost of costumes, set design and other expenses. "I am trying to be optimistic and realistic about what people can afford right now," she said. 

Yet Bahr's predicament is all too common as the public health crisis cripples the economy. Her fundraiser is just one of more than 22,000 GoFundMe campaigns started by people seeking financial help because of the coronavirus.

Writer-performer Iris Bahr is using GoFundMe to recoup some of the money she invested to put on a show that was canceled because of the coronavirus. Courtesy of Iris Bahr

Struggling workers, businesses and nonprofit groups across the globe have recently generated an "unprecedented" level of activity on GoFundMe, said Tim Cadogan, CEO of the crowdfunding platform. Collectively, these campaigns have raised more than $40 million over the past few weeks.

The rate of campaign creation is accelerating as fears mount over the spread of the virus. Indeed, over the past 48 hours, one in every three new campaigns created in the U.S. has cited the coronavirus, Cadogan told CBS MoneyWatch. 

"This has happened so quickly — the speed with which this has rippled through society and the economy is unprecedented, and we are seeing that reflected on the platform," he added.

Campaigns run the gamut from people raising funds for closed restaurants and their workers, to subsidizing actors, medical professionals, school children and more: 

  • Supporters have contributed more than $42,000 to a campaign that's using the funds to provide free lunches to children who are out of school in Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • An Atlanta-based theatrical designer last week started a fundraiser to support his local theater community. "As the number of infections increase, we gain clarity that 'the show must go on' is not an appropriate response to the outbreak," Rob Brooksher wrote. He said funds will be split among theater artists in Atlanta, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck.
  • A relief fund for Hollywood support staff has raised more than $344,000 to assist Los Angeles-based workers in the entertainment industry as film production comes to a near standstill. It will benefit production assistants and others who need help paying their bills, fund organizers say.
  • Well-Paid Maids, a Washington, D.C.-based housecleaning company, is temporarily closed and is seeking donations so that it can pay workers while they are on furlough. 

"What's different about this is that it's a global phenomenon unlike anything else we've ever seen and compared to other global national disasters we have helped with," Cadogan said. "This time, everyone is affected." 

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