OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Some of the most vulnerable members of the Bay Area workforce aren’t able to shelter in place as undocumented laborers hit the streets searching for work with few prospects during the coronavirus pandemic.
Unemployment numbers are through the roof, but one subgroup of workers will get very little to no help from the recently passed federal COVID-19 stimulus package: people who don’t have legal immigration status.
The day laborers waiting for work outside of the Oakland Home Depot said staying home is simply not an option. Their lack of legal status means no unemployment benefits, no stimulus checks and very little legal protection.
“I’ve got to pay my rent. I’ve got to pay gas for my car, [I’ve got to feed] my kids,” said a day laborer who only gave his last name, Correa.
He said he’s more scared of not have a job than the coronaVirus.
“Three kids and my wife. She stopped work because she was working in a hotel cleaning,” said Correa.
His family is running out of money and he;s worried they’ll die of starvation before they get the virus. He and his wife cannot apply for benefits because they don’t have legal status.
Undocumented immigrants who worked in hotels, restaurants and other service industries face the same problem. Many of them paid taxes. But they just don’t qualify for any help.
Correa has waited for jobs at street corners. But with many construction projects now considered non-essential, there’s very little work.
“We don’t have any money for rent and we don’t know what to do,” said another day laborer who
declined to provide his name. He was waiting with dozens of other day laborers for work outside of the Concord Home Depot parking lot.
Activists are telling immigrant communities about the rent moratorium. But many undocumented immigrants remain fearful of eviction due to their immigration status.
“We’re telling them to practice social distancing. We’re talking about washing hands. They’re like, ‘Where do we wash our hands? We don’t have a place while we’re at the street corner,'” said Gabriela Galicia, Executive Director of Street Level Health Project.
The non-profit organization is trying to help day laborers like Correa. On Thursday, the organization gave him $100. Street Level Health said it’ll continue to give out money to help these vulnerable families.
They’ll also distribute food out of their Fruitvale District office every Tuesday. The non-profit got a little boost on Thursday afternoon. Oakland Councilman Noel Gallo gave a check for $500 to Street Level Health.
“We’re giving you $500. And next Monday, you’ll get another $500 to support our day laborer program. You’re outstanding and you’ve done a great job,” said Councilman Gallo as he hands a check to Galicia.
Organizations like Street Level Health are asking for donations so they can distribute money to those who don’t qualify for government benefits. Street Level Health Project will soon launch a GoFundMe page to collect donations.