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It has been almost three weeks since the state of Texas was gripped by one of the worst winter storms in its history. The arctic blast resulted in extensive utility shutdowns, leaving many Texans scrambling to provide several days of warmth for themselves as well as their children, relatives, neighbors, and pets. Families hunkered down with layered clothing and water-filled bathtubs but found themselves struggling to prepare meals and charge devices to contact loved ones elsewhere in the state. Many communities were left especially vulnerable as road conditions worsened, rendering food and other resources almost completely inaccessible. 

Relief efforts have poured in through the actions of aid organizations, charities, and companies. The internet industry launched several additional measures of assistance to provide offline support through the use of online initiatives:

Airbnb activated their Open Homes platform through their nonprofit, providing Texans a way to offer their homes as temporary free housing. The website also provides a donation option for those able to offer financial assistance to these hosts.

Amazon donated nearly 1 million bottles of water to multiple Texas cities as well as coordinating with Good360 and other community organizations to deliver hygiene products, blankets, and other supplies to those affected by the storm.

Expedia Group coordinated with hotels across the state to create an Emergency Accommodations Portal which provides hotel rooms at capped prices. Expedia’s price protection ensures that Texans have access to a safe housing alternative without battling explosive price shocks.

Google organized an in-house fundraising campaign through its partnership with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and activated an SOS alert, ensuring that information and news related to the crisis were easily accessible to the millions of Texans who use the internet as their primary information source.

PayPal instituted a transaction-fee free disaster relief campaign which streamlines public donations to a number of organizations working on the ground in affected areas. The platform was designed to diversify efforts by including links to a variety of food banks and homeless shelters as well as an animal rescue organization.

Snap’s Philanthropy Team created a resource guide of organizations in need of donations and delivered it to their entire staff.

In addition to industry-driven initiatives, crowdfunding through internet platforms allowed for mutual aid to reach thousands of Texans in need at unprecedented rates. Grassroots organizations such as Mutual Aid Houston and Austin Mutual Aid utilized apps such as Venmo and Cashapp to get money to Texans within minutes. The hashtag “#lovethyneighbor” trended on Twitter, dispersing the names of hundreds of Venmo, CashApp, and PayPal donations accounts. 

At its core, the internet industry is about building and supporting communities, whether online or offline. As such, IA and its members understand the tremendous importance of an integrated approach to relief efforts during times of crisis. Member companies continue to monitor the situation in Texas while also exploring  additional ways to provide industry assistance when disaster strikes.