April 8, 2020 431 PM
BREWSTER COUNTY — The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the Big Bend region’s tourism-dependent economy and strained limited resources. Once the pandemic reaches here, the situation will only get worse. The Big Bend COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Fund will help Brewster County residents recover from hardships caused by the pandemic. Volunteers from Alpine and Terlingua started the fund through Big Bend Citizens Alliance — a Terlingua-based nonprofit organization.
“This pandemic is both a reminder and a test of our connectedness, which we can only pass by supporting each other,” said Megan Wilde, the relief fund’s Alpine team leader. “We hope everyone who can will chip in to help friends and neighbors who have lost their livelihoods because of the pandemic.”
Flattening the curve in the Big Bend region means flattening the economy. More than a quarter of the population depends on the tourism industry, which has shut down to slow down the pandemic’s spread. Mandatory and voluntary closures have hurt mostly hourly service workers living paycheck to paycheck. Restaurant and hotel workers, retail salespeople, tour guides, hairdressers, massage therapists and college students have suddenly lost jobs during the peak of tourism season.
The relief fund will distribute funding to local nonprofit organizations that meet basic needs, as well as directly to individuals whose needs are not being met through available channels. Many of our region’s small nonprofit organizations have taken financial blows from thrift store closures, event cancellations, and decreased donations. The relief fund’s fundraising efforts will support their limited staff and grow their capacity as demands for their services surge.
Existing local nonprofits and benefit programs are not set up to immediately help everyone who lost their livelihood recently. Many people are waiting weeks to even apply for unemployment and other benefits. Hospitality workers who lost jobs in March do not yet qualify for many low-income programs. Economic stimulus checks will not arrive for weeks or possibly months. The relief fund will help fill these gaps in assistance.
As the pandemic and economic crisis evolve, the relief fund will adjust the allocation of funding to meet the greatest needs in our communities and to complement available assistance programs. These distribution decisions will be made by a committee of volunteer leaders from Alpine, Marathon and Terlingua. All individual requests will be vetted by trustworthy, trained volunteers. The fund will use a points-based system to prioritize where funding will have the greatest impact.
Besides distributing funds locally, the relief fund has a website, bigbendaid.org, which offers a “Find Help” directory of resources. People can find local groups that offer assistance with paying bills, free legal advice about eviction, cash grants for hospitality workers and many more sources of support.
The relief fund is now taking online applications for direct assistance at bigbendaid.org. The Marathon Post Office, Terlingua Crisis Center, WesTex Community Credit Union and Alpine Community Credit Union are serving as pick-up and drop-off locations for printed applications.
To donate to the relief fund online, visit bigbendaid.org or our crowdfunding campaign at fundrazr.com/bigbendC-19. Checks made payable to Big Bend Citizens Alliance with “pandemic relief fund” in the memo field can be mailed to PO Box 202, Terlingua, TX 79852 or deposited at West Texas National Bank branches in Alpine and Terlingua using the drive-through during normal business hours.