By Norma Galeana
LE GRAND, Calif. (Reuters) – In Fresno, California, 58-year-old grandmother Maria Luisa Salazar shares a mobile home with her family of 11. Afraid that going to work would put them at risk of the coronavirus, she has stopped working and is staying at home.
But like other undocumented immigrants in the United States, she will not receive the federal government stimulus payments that are set to go out in coming weeks, and is wondering how she will support her family.
“I clean a house in Modesto and it’s not worth going there for the $80 that I earn and bring the virus home and infect my family,” she told Reuters at her home in Le Grand, a small farming community 45 miles (72 km) north of Fresno in California’s Central Valley. “We all stay home.”
She lamented that she is not in line for the checks the Internal Revenue Service has begun to mail out this week, even though she is a taxpayer.
“We are undocumented, but we also contribute. I file my taxes and I pay,” said Salazar, who is originally from Mexico and said her children and in-laws are also undocumented.
Around 10 percent of California’s workers are in the country illegally, and paid more than $2.5 billion in state and local taxes last year, California Governor Gavin Newsom said. Many do jobs officially designated as “essential,” including those in healthcare, food delivery, construction and logistics. But they are not entitled to government aid.
Newsom on Wednesday announced a partnership with philanthropies to create a $125 million disaster relief fund — the first of its kind in the nation — offering up to $500 each to 150,000 adults left out of the federal stimulus package.
Americans stand to receive payments of up to $1,200 each as part of Congress’ $2.2 trillion aid package, meant to stem the fallout from the novel coronavirus outbreak that has shuttered businesses and left more than 10 million people unemployed.
Salazar said she got a test for the coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19 – it was negative – because she feared infecting the children, two of whom have asthma.
Now she worries about feeding them.
“It’s very difficult, very difficult. We had some money saved and it’s all gone,” she said.
“I’m not so much worried about staying home or dealing with fights or arguments,” Salazar said. “We’re Latinos and we’re used to being surrounded by a lot of people. What I’m really worried about is, if one gets sick, we’re all going to get sick and it’s way too many kids.”
(Reporting by Norma Galeana; writing by Bill Tarrant; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)