Monday, 15th July, 2024
Monday, 15th July, 2024

Pandemic sends US single mothers into poverty

When the coronavirus pandemic
shuttered restaurants in California, Aleida Ramirez lost her job as a
waitress, plunging her — along with many other single mothers — into a
vicious cycle of poverty, unpaid bills and reliance on food banks.

The pandemic has been particularly hard on women who work in the service
sector, which has been crippled by the economic crisis.

And more than 12 million Americans who are unemployed or without income
face losing their benefits the day after Christmas, when the aid package
passed by Congress in the spring expires — barring a deal in high-stakes
talks this weekend.

Ramirez had to quit her second job as a delivery driver for food service
Instacart in order to take care of her 11-year-old daughter and her 21-year-
old nephew, who has autism, when her husband was arrested in July for
domestic violence.

Since October, she has not paid rent on her apartment in a housing complex
in Concord, northeast of San Francisco.

“I was like, ‘I can’t — I have to choose what do I cover: is it food or
rent?’” she said.

To support her household, she received meal tickets from her daughter’s
school, as well as vouchers from a local church that she can redeem at a
corner store.

In order to pay for internet service — an essential tool for her
daughter’s remote classes — Ramirez counts on her nephew’s salary from a
part-time job at McDonald’s. She also regularly skips meals.

Ramirez said she felt “guilty” for her situation: “I felt that I was being
like a bad mom, I was irresponsible.”

But then she realized she wasn’t alone. Ramirez got together with
neighbors and they organized to negotiate with landlords.

“This is all of us in the same boat, many of us single moms,” she said.

– Depression –

On the other side of the country, in Washington, Maria Lara is worried she
will soon be evicted from her shabby apartment after falling far behind on
her rent. A nationwide moratorium on evictions is set to end after Christmas.

Lara, who is Salvadoran and has a young daughter, worked as a hotel
housekeeper before the pandemic. She found work as a laborer on construction
sites but only works “two, three days, sometimes four, every two weeks.”

Her building, meantime, is infested with mice that get stuck in sticky
traps.

“We live with (the mice) because when we tell the owner that it smells
bad, that there are animals, they say they will come to fumigate — they say
they came, but they don’t come,” said Lara.

Further north, in New York, Marisol Gonzales lost her job in the spring
when the pandemic struck Corona — the neighborhood in the city’s Queens
borough where she lived — and then her apartment, which cost her $2,200 per
month, in October.

The 47-year-old massage therapist from El Salvador found a room in a
shared apartment; she lives there with her 20-year-old daughter. Small jobs
allow her to pay for the room ($850), the electric bills and her subway card.
She goes once a month to a food bank.

But for the past month, she has faced an even heavier toll from the
pandemic: her daughter was hospitalized for depression. A student, she
couldn’t stand the confinement and gradually withdrew into herself until she
stopped her studies.

“I pray to God that she will recover soon so that she can return home,”
said Gonzales.

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