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Google Maps adds tools for donations and online classes amid coronavirus

The search giant also lets shops list special hours designated for seniors.

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The updates are aimed at letting local businesses connect with customers.

Angela Lang/CNET

Google on Wednesday said it's revamping its Maps app with new features aimed at helping consumers connect with local businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

One new tool lets people book virtual appointments, like online yoga or cooking classes, along with giving price estimates for the services. Another update lets shops list special hours, like windows specifically designated for seniors or people with compromised immune systems. 

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People can book online classes on the Maps app.

Google

The changes come as local businesses struggle under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic, which spurred months-long stay at home orders in regions across the globe. As a result, restaurants and other venues have faced layoffs and closures. One of the new features of the app update lets businesses ask for support from customers by linking to pages that let people make donations or buy gift cards. Google said it's partnering with PayPal and GoFundMe for donations.

"In a world where things are changing as rapidly as they are, it's really been important for us to think about how we respond to those changes," Jennifer Fitzpatrick, senior vice president of Google Maps, said Tuesday during a press briefing. 

During the pandemic, delivery and takeout has surged. Another feature lets restaurants list what options they have available, including curbside pickup or dine-in. Virtual kitchens, which deliver food but have no dining rooms, can also be verified under Google's business listings. Previously, those restaurants didn't have that option. 

Google has also said it aims to help small businesses beyond its Maps services. In late March, Google announced an $800 million package to help organizations ailing because of the coronavirus, earmarking $340 million in advertising credits for small and medium-sized businesses across all industries. The credits will go to businesses with active Google Ads accounts and must be redeemed before the end of the year.

But some small businesses say Google's coronavirus relief package doesn't go far enough. For example, CEOs of small travel companies, which market heavily on Google's ad platforms, have called on Google to extend the timeline of its ad credits or provide cash refunds.